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9 at Northeastern may have mumps

By Stephen Smith
Globe Staff / April 18, 2009
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The number of Northeastern students suspected of being sick with the mumps rose to nine last night, with one suffering symptoms sufficiently severe to require hospitalization, Boston public health authorities said.

The students bear the telltale signs of the viral illness, including facial swelling, fever, headaches, muscle pain, fatigue, and loss of appetite. The germs can spread via coughing, sneezing, or talking.

All nine students are undergraduates, and they range in age from 18 to 22, said university spokesman Mike Armini.

To contain the spread of the disease, which in rare cases can lead to brain inflammation and deafness, Northeastern and disease specialists from the Boston Public Health Commission have urged the ill students to avoid crowds and stay in their rooms. Some of the students live in on-campus dormitories while others reside off campus.

"All of their roommates, if they have roommates, are being tested," Armini said. "And if there's a need to provide an individual room for someone, that will be done."

In a letter, university administrators urged about 500 students to be especially vigilant for signs of the mumps because they shared classes with the undergraduates believed to be stricken with the disease, a once-common scourge of childhood now seen infrequently in the United States.

Northeastern authorities estimate that 99 percent of the student body is immunized, and shots are being offered to the handful who are not.

Stephen Smith can be reached at stsmith@globe.com.