Fairfield students were the last to know of the cases of mumps that had occurred on campus, nearly a week after faculty and staff were notified.

On Nov. 3, the faculty of Fairfield was notified via email from the Student Health Center that there had been two cases of mumps found on campus.

While the email went on to say that these two students had fully recovered, the SHC recommended that any student or faculty member with possible symptoms should get tested. This would have been no trouble for the faculty, but would have caused a problem for the students, as they never received any email or notification from the University about the viral disease until Nov. 11. Only students who attended Mass at the Egan Chapel of St. Ignatius Loyola this past Sunday heard an announcement about the mumps cases.  

According to Julia Duffy, director of the SHC, there was never any intention to keep the information from the students. The SHC does not have the authority to send out emails campus-wide, so an advisory email was to be sent through Fairfield’s Marketing and Communications Division. According to Jennifer Anderson, associate vice president for Marketing and Communications, the email was “absolutely intended to be distributed to the entire campus community that includes students, faculty and staff.”

When the SHC was notified on Nov. 11 by a Fairfield Mirror staffer that the students never received the intended email, the situation was rectified and an email was distributed 20 minutes later.

The Marketing and Communications Division uses a customer relationship management (CRM) system for their email distribution, where any queries for an email distribution have to be pulled manually for the mailing done through the office. In regards to students not receiving the advisory email, Anderson stated, “There was an error in pulling this particular query. It happens few and far between with the thousands of internal and external emails we distribute, but in this case, it happened.”

Senior Lily McLoughlin thought that “for something that serious, [an oversight like that] shouldn’t happen.”

A notice posted on the SHC website shows that this was taken seriously, even if students didn’t know for a week of the possibility of the viral disease.

However, those who attended Mass on Nov. 8 were aware of the cases of mumps on campus, as an announcement was made to explain a change in the normal Mass routine.

Father Mark Scalese, S.J., director of Campus Ministry, after reading the Nov. 3 email, received a separate email from Duffy asking if he had considered the implications of this spread of the disease regarding Holy Communion. It was discussed and decided that it would be best if the Church refrained from using the chalice during Holy Communion until after Thanksgiving, and to continuously monitor the situation.

“We realized that people are used to using the cup, so we had to make an announcement about it. We went back and forth about the best way to do that,” said Scalese.

“We thought of saying, ‘We’re just not using the cup for the next few weeks,’ but we figured that’s going to raise some questions. I asked Julia Duffy what she recommended and she said something to the effect of ‘You could just say under the recommendation of the Health Center,’ but we thought that might actually raise more questions and alarm than anything because it’s so vague and people’s imaginations could run wild. We finally decided to just say it was mumps and take it from there,” said Scalese.

Sophomore Andrew Killian said, “If there was really nothing they could do to fix it, maybe just apologize. Looking into the future I hope that Fairfield notifies everyone as quickly as possible with ways to avoid [it] and a list of symptoms to be careful of. I know they did this for the mumps outbreak, but it was very delayed.”  

As stated in the email, mumps is a viral disease that is spread by salivary contact; to prevent transmission, it is recommended to exercise good hand washing and not sharing food, drink or eating utensils. Duffy clarifies that not sharing eating utensils refers to unwashed cups or utensils. Unlike what has at times been seen at the Main Dining Hall, “There is no directive to utilize plastic or paper plates or utensils. The standard procedure that Dining Services utilizes to wash plates and utensils sanitized these items. There is no risk of mumps virus transmission from a wash/sanitized plate or utensil,” assured Duffy.

The students have been cleared as there have been no new cases reported. However, students experiencing any symptoms, such as swelling of the salivary glands, headaches, muscle aches, fatigue and decreased appetite are urged to contact the SHC and seek medical attention.

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