CHICAGO (CBS) — Two students at Barrington High School have been diagnosed with mumps, and health officials have identified 19 other probable or suspected cases at the high school and at Prairie and Station middle schools.
Parents at Barrington School District 220 were informed of the situation on Tuesday. Officials have confirmed an adult and a student at the high school have been infected. The school also has one more probable case and 11 suspected cases of mumps. The two middle schools have a total of seven suspected cases.
The district was attempting to prevent the spread of the disease by stepping up cleaning and disinfection of surfaces people often touch, like desks and chairs.
So far, since only two cases have been confirmed, officials were classifying the situation as a cluster of mumps, not an outbreak.
Experts said an outbreak happens when there are three confirmed cases within 50 days.
Mumps is a viral disease that causes fever, and swelling around the jaw, ears, and neck. It also can cause headaches, earaches, and sore throat.
District officials said it’s the first time they’ve dealt with mumps in recent memory. It’s become something of a buzz in the hallways.
“The only thing I have heard is that when you’re not vaccinated, you aren’t allowed to come back here for 25 days,” freshman Tommy Wondrasek said.
Ellie Michaels said she’s not scared about a potential outbreak, but she couldn’t help thinking about it when she became ill recently.
“I just got over a cold, and when I did get the cold, I’m like, ‘oh my gosh!’ and then I’m like, ‘oh, nevermind,’” she said.
The highly contagious disease is most easily spread through saliva, sneezing or coughing.
“You just have to be over-diligent, and be aware of your surroundings, make sure that you’re washing your hands,” said Ellie’s mother, Maria.
If a student exhibits symptoms like fever, headaches, or swelling under the ears and jaw, Barrington High School principal Stephen McWilliams had some simple advice.
“If you’re ill, make sure that you stay home. If you think that you have mumps, we are asking the parents to contact their doctor and follow their doctor’s advice,” he said.
At least one student who contracted mumps had been vaccinated, which came as a bit of a shock to classmate Hayden Harris.
“I don’t want the mumps,” he said.
That’s why he and other students walked into the building on Friday vowing to wash their hands, and do their part to try and prevent this mumps cluster from becoming a full-blown outbreak.
District 220 spokeswoman Morgan Delack said 98 percent of students in the district have been vaccinated for mumps and other diseases.
Even students who have been vaccinated in the past should be careful.
Northwestern Children’s Practice pediatrician Scott Goldstein says the mumps vaccine can wear off over time because people receive vaccines at the age of one, then once again when they’re between four and six years old.
“Ideally, you’d want a vaccine to protect you, your whole life. In reality, it doesn’t always work that way,” he says.
“Sometimes when there’s outbreaks of mumps, the health department, the local health departments, will recommend that people that get exposed get a third dose.”