The Illinois Department of Public Health reports that more than two-thirds of the known cases of mumps are in Champaign County, with a number of cases on a college campus.

The number of cases in the Champaign area currently is at 50 and could continue to climb, state and local health officials said. Most of the cases are linked to the University of Illinois campus, where thousands of students who were away for the summer are expected to return to campus in the next few weeks for fall classes, health officials told The (Champaign) News-Gazette.

Dr Robert Palinkas is director of the McKinley Health Center. Smaller mumps outbreaks happen periodically on campus, he said, but the current outbreak is the largest in more than a decade.

“We’re hoping it will tail off,” he said. “It always has, but you can’t necessarily be certain about that.”

Mumps is a highly contagious viral illness that’s characterized by swollen jaws and puffy cheeks. Although not everyone who gets mumps shows symptoms, they include fever, headache, muscle aches and loss of appetite.

The virus can spread faster on a college campus because students are in such close contact with each other, Palinkas said.

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