Mumps outbreak

15 March 2010, 17:50 | Updated: 16 March 2010, 08:51

Parents are being reminded of the importance of children having the MMR vaccine after an outbreak of suspected mumps among students in Oxford.

Forty five from Oxford University and Oxford Brookes University have been sent home to recover.  Doctors in the area have been told to be on the look-out for symptoms.

Mumps is transmitted through airborne droplets from the coughs and sneezes of infected people.  Mumps is normally a mild illness, but in some cases there can be severe complications, such as deafness and meningitis.

Although all cases reported so far have been among students at the universities, but the Health Protection Agency are keen to stop mumps spreading further.  Making sure children are vaccinated with MMR is one way of doing this.

Noel McCarthy from the Thames Valley Health Protection Unit said: "We are advising students to be aware of the symptoms of mumps. Should they become symptomatic they should see their GP and avoid social contact for five days after onset of the symptoms.

"All students are being encouraged to ensure good hand hygiene and tissue etiquette to avoid spread. It is particularly important that all students ensure that they have had two doses of MMR vaccine to protect themselves and their fellow students."

What are the symptoms of mumps?

In mumps, one or both of the salivary glands swell up and become painful.  People with mumps tend to take on a 'hamster-like' appearance of a swollen face, particularly just below and in front of the ear.

Other symptoms may include:

- pain when chewing and swallowing
- sore throat
- fever
- feeling tired
- loss of appetite
- mild abdominal (tummy) pain
- dry mouth
- headache
- possible swelling around the ovaries (in girls) and testes (in boys after puberty)

How is mumps transmitted?

Mumps is passed on through airborne droplets from the coughs and sneezes of infected people.  It usually takes 16-18 days for the symptoms to develop (the incubation period).

My child hasn't had the MMR vaccine - can I get it quickly?

You should be able to arrange for your child to have the MMR vaccine at short notice.  Doctor's surgeries normally have large stocks of vaccine and run weekly vaccination sessions.  Contact your GP.