By Channing Flatt—
The first Tarleton State University student confirmed to have contracted mumps says he was turned away from the student health center when his symptoms first appeared on March 31st.
Later that same day, the student, who asked not to be identified, said he returned to work at his on-campus job where he was in contact with other students.
“Two of their people (nurses) were out and they only had one nurse all day,” the student said. “They’re supposed to close at four and I got there at 2:30 and they told me they couldn’t help me. They wouldn’t even see me. She said they were leaving early that day.”
“They told me, ‘Sorry she’s (the nurse) leaving pretty soon. That means we really don’t have anyone left to see you.’ I went to the hospital that night because it got really bad.”
When asked why the student was turned down, University spokeswomen Cecilia Jacobs said that the Student Health Center requires appointments. Jacobs went on to say that they saw 42 students that day and were all booked by the time he got there. Jacobs also added that the Student Health Center referred the student to local health centers. Since the incident, Jacobs also told Texan News that there are now three more confirmed cases of Mumps on campus.
With four confirmed cases in total on campus, that may seem like a lot, but for Texas this is far from an isolated incident. The Associated Press reports that the state is experiencing its highest incidence of mumps in more than 20 years. The Texas department of State Health services said that Texas has had 221 cases of mumps so far this year, the largest total since 1994. The Associated Press went on to say that many of the cases are possibly linked to the popular spring break destination South Padre Island.
In an interview on Wednesday at his home, the student was smiling even though his face remained swollen from the rare, contagious disease.
He also was contacted by officials in Fort Worth from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, who suggested he may have contracted the disease over spring break.
“Probably sharing drinks in (South) Padre,” the student said. “There are a bunch of Mumps outbreaks in Northern states, campuses and universities, so I’m sure I came in contact with someone who may have had it.”
“What it also could’ve been is I cut my foot on the beach really bad” he explained. “I really didn’t tend to it at all, I just let the sand seal it up” We walked on the asphalt barefoot, there were nights on the beach that I walked barefoot back home” he added.
The CDC’s official website says mumps is a contagious disease caused by a virus. The most common symptoms include fever, headache, muscle aches, tiredness, loss of appetite and swollen or tender salivary glands. The CDC reports, however, that some people who are infected with mumps have mild or no symptoms at all. The Texas Department of Health and Human Services reports that mumps is spread easily from person-to-person through saliva, coughing and sneezing. The CDC notes that even those who have had two rounds of MMR vaccination (mumps, measles and rubella) may still get the disease as it is 88% effective. The CDC also said that if you fear you have the mumps, you should quarantine yourself and see a doctor. Practicing good hygiene and washing hands regularly was also encouraged to prevent the spread of the disease.
The student said the disease caused so much swelling that his face “looked like a beehive.”
“My right lymph node got swollen one day and I thought it was my wisdom teeth or something, but then I woke up the next day and both sides of my face were really swollen. The swelling was first, then nausea and dizziness. It’s painful, it’s really painful,” he said.
Swelling caused most of the pain, he said, but eating hurt too, as did ice to reduce the swelling.
“If you try to eat anything — even soup, your mouth, it just sits there and throbs. It’s pretty terrible actually,” he said “Anything cold that touched it hurt. I should’ve iced it more, but I didn’t because it hurt so bad to ice it.
The student said that the swelling and pain lasted “a little over a week.”
After being turned away from the student health center, it took two trips to the hospital before his condition was diagnosed.
“The first time, they told me they didn’t know what it was and just gave me some painkillers and they said if it doesn’t get better (to) come back, and it got a whole lot worse. I went back and they ran a lot of tests on me and I didn’t figure out it was mumps until it was no longer contagious,” the student said.
He was subsequently contacted by the CDC to make sure he was not spreading the disease.
“I had to talk to CDC in Ft. Worth because there was an outbreak there and they wanted to make sure I was quarantining myself,” he said.” The CDC confirmed that after my fifth day, after last Tuesday, ‘you’re OK to go back (to school) you’re no longer contagious but you may not feel right to go back yet’.”
He missed a full week of classes.
“Mumps will take such a toll on your body that you’re gonna feel really weak,” he said.
Since returning to school he’s said he’s felt ostracized by teachers and peers alike.
“I’ll be honest, they’re avoiding me,” he said. “No one is really educated on it in all honesty. I wasn’t before either but the CDC got me up to par on it when I talked to them on the phone. But basically, yeah, everybody’s like ‘Oh are you still contagious?’ Even my teachers asked ‘Are you still contagious?” which I told them ‘no’.”