The first cases of the mumps outbreak within the Bates community occurred about a month ago, the 6th of October. According to the article published on the Bates website by Health Services, entitled “Community Update from Health Services about Mumps,” three students were diagnosed with mumps, where the symptoms include fever, headache, body aches, and “pain and swelling of the salivary glands at the angle of the jaw (the parotid glands).” The treatment process involves “rest, fluids and pain relievers/fever reducers like acetaminophen or ibuprofen” and can be transmitted through “contact with respiratory secretions or saliva droplets through activities like kissing or sharing of glasses or utensils.”
As stated by Erin Foster Zsiga and Cynthia Visbaras, “we are currently in the incubation period from the latest cases of mumps. The risk for mumps will decrease when one incubation period (eighteen days) passes with no new cases.” They went on to state that “students with symptoms of mumps should visit Health Services or CMMC Urgent Care for evaluation. Students diagnosed with mumps will be isolated until they are no longer contagious. The healthcare provider will counsel students regarding the length of time isolation is necessary (no longer than 5 days). The college has provided special housing and dining arrangements for students with mumps who are not able to return home while they are ill. Health Services clinical staff and the Dean on Call stay in close contact with students isolating on campus.”
A way to decrease the chances of receiving mumps is through the process of acquiring a vaccine after the child’s first birthday. The state of Maine “requires that all college students provide proof of immunity to measles, mumps and rubella with two doses of MMR vaccine after age one or with an immune blood titre result.” Of course, according to Zsiga and Visbaras “students can choose not to receive the vaccine for a legally permitted reason but they can be excluded for the eighteen day mumps incubation period from the latest confirmed case on campus. This eighteen day timeline resets to day one each time a new case is confirmed.”
Amidst the chaotic mumps outbreak, numerous students have complained about the current state of the Health Center. One of the complaints revolves around the Center’s hours, to which Zsiga and Visbaras responded saying that, “after a thorough review of Health Services utilization by our students as well as practices at other colleges, Health Services will remain open from 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m., Monday through Friday during the academic year. By an overwhelming margin, our utilization data showed that students access health care services at Bates during these hours. In response to this pattern, students are now better served, with increased staffing from last year during these hours, allowing Health Services to see a greater number of students per day.”
If the Health Center is closed, students have access to Ubers, ZipCars, Taxis, and could ask a friend to drive them to the hospital. Further, “outside of our on-campus operating hours, students have easier access to CMMC’s Urgent Care Clinic and Central Maine Medical Center, providing our students round-the-clock access to high quality medical care. All of CMMC’s practices and hospital services, including their retail pharmacy, utilize a common electronic medical record system to ensure continuity of care. There is concern having undiagnosed students in the back of a Security vehicle without an EMT present to assess and provide care on the way to the Urgent Care Clinic or CMMC. To make access to the Urgent Care Clinic easy for students on weekends, the Bates Weekend Shuttle makes trips there on Fridays, Saturdays, and Sundays. The hours of operation for the shuttle on the weekends are: Fridays 5:30 pm – 12:00 midnight, Saturdays 5:00 pm – 12:00 midnight, and Sundays 12:00 noon – 6:00 pm,” Zsiga and Visbaras said.
There has been an increase in students scheduling appointments, thus the Health Center is hiring “three additional staff members, a new Patient Services Representative, a new Nurse Practitioner, and a new Medical Assistant. This increased staffing plan will help reduce wait times and allow Health Services to accommodate more students in a single day than our current augmented capacity.”
To voice any concerns or feedback the students may have in regards to the Health Center, they should contact Erin Foster Zsiga or Cindy Visbaras. However, it should be known that “to evaluate Health Services up to this point, Student Affairs, CAPS, and Health Services have held four open sessions for students to present feedback. Student Affairs, CAPS, and Health Services, also have met with multiple student groups on campus to hear their experiences about interactions with Health Services. At the end of this semester, surveys will be sent to students who have accessed care at Health Services.” There are multiple outlets for students to voice their issues; therefore, take advantage of them.