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Students in Cornwall urged to get mumps vaccine

Students in Cornwall urged to get mumps vaccine

Published by Sarah Yeoman at 2:03pm 20th September 2019. (Updated at 2:35pm 20th September 2019)

An outbreak of mumps at universities across the country sparks a warning to students in Cornwall.

Public Health England (PHE) is urging freshers to make sure they are up to date with vaccines.

Figures show there have been 227 confirmed cases of mumps in the South-West between April and June this year.

As part of the Value of Vaccines campaign, PHE is encouraging universities to share vaccine information and resources with their students ahead of and during university term time, to ensure all students are aware of the importance vaccination, particularly MMR and MenACWY.

PHE staff in the South West are attending Freshers Fairs to promote the vaccine, and messaging will be included in email updates and blogs from UCAS.

What is mumps?

Mumps is a contagious viral infection most recognisable by the painful swellings in the side of the face under the ears (the parotid glands), giving a person with mumps a distinctive "hamster face" appearance.

Mumps usually passes without causing serious illness and severe complications are rare. Mumps can lead to viral meningitis if the virus moves into the outer layer of the brain. 

Other complications include swelling of the testicles or ovaries (if the affected person has gone through puberty) which may affect a person's fertility.

The increase in mumps has been mostly driven by outbreaks in university students. Cases were reported across England, predominantly in young adults aged 15 to 34 years.

"Although it is normal to see mumps outbreaks in universities every few years, we are seeing a significant number of cases - the highest quarterly figure since 2009.

"Coupled with the continued measles outbreaks these figures clearly demonstrate the need for sustained high vaccination rates.

"Starting college or university is an important and exciting time. As parents we want to make sure our children, whatever age they are are, are as safe and prepared as they can be when they start on this new adventure.

"One of the things we can do is check to make sure that our young people have had all their vaccinations especially two doses of MMR and the MenACWY vaccine and if not make them an appointment to have them before the university term starts.

"Measles is easy to catch and can kill. Vaccines are there to stop the spread of disease and save lives.

"It's never too late to protect yourself and others."

Dr Julie Yates, Lead Consultant for Screening and Immunisation for Public Health England South West

measles

Who is at risk of getting mumps?

Nearly half of the mumps cases this quarter were unvaccinated. While the mumps component of the Measles, Mumps and Rubella (MMR) vaccine is highly effective at protecting young children, immunity can reduce over time.

Therefore, older teenagers and adults who received two doses of MMR in childhood can still get mumps although this is generally mild compared to those who are unvaccinated.

Alongside the MMR vaccine, it is also important to remind students to make sure they've had the MenACWY vaccine which protects against meningitis and septicaemia (blood poisoning) - which can both be fatal.

Young adults are particularly at risk as they are carriers of the disease. Meningitis and septicaemia caused by the aggressive meningitis W strain previously caused a series of cases in young people.

The majority of freshers starting university in September 2019 will have been eligible for the vaccine as part of the school vaccination programme. However, older students and those from overseas may not have been eligible for the vaccine in school.

It is therefore important that all students contact their GP to check that they have had the MenACWY vaccine before starting university or college. If that's not possible, they should check and, if necessary, have it as soon as they can after they arrive.

Signs and symptoms:

Measles:

Measles is a highly infectious viral illness that can be very unpleasant and sometimes lead to serious complications. It’s now uncommon in the UK because of the effective MMR vaccination programme. Although usually a mild illness in children, measles can be more severe in adults.

The initial symptoms of measles develop around 10 days after a person is infected. These can include:

  • cold-like symptoms, such as a runny nose, sneezing, and a cough
  • sore, red eyes that may be sensitive to light
  • a high temperature (fever), which may reach around 40°C (104°F)
  • a few days later, a red-brown blotchy rash will appear. This usually starts on the head or upper neck, before spreading outwards to the rest of the body

Symptoms usually resolve in about 7 to 10 days. Complications include pneumonia, ear infections, brain inflammation (encephalitis) and even death.

Mumps:

Mumps is a contagious viral infection that used to be common in children before the introduction of the MMR vaccine.

It is most recognisable by the painful swellings in the side of the face under the ears (the parotid glands), giving a person with mumps a distinctive "hamster face" appearance.

Other symptoms of mumps include headaches, joint pain and a high temperature, which may develop a few days before the swelling of the parotid glands.

More general symptoms often develop a few days before the parotid glands swell. These can include:

  • headache
  • joint pain
  • feeling sick
  • dry mouth
  • mild abdominal pain
  • feeling tired
  • loss of appetite
  • a high temperature (fever) of 38C (100.4F), or above

In about 1 in 3 cases, mumps doesn't cause any noticeable symptoms.

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