FRESHERS and returning students are being urged to check their vaccinations are up-to-date after high numbers of measles and mumps cases confirmed in the North West.

Public Health England says the number of mumps cases between April and June this year was the highest quarterly figure for ten years.

Parents and their children are being advised to check they have had two doses of MMR before university terms begin.

Public Health England North West said latest figures showed 457 cases of mumps were confirmed in the region between April and June 2019 with 2,028 cases of mumps confirmed across England. This compared to 795 cases confirmed in England last quarter, continuing the increase seen during the first quarter of 2019.

Mumps is a contagious viral infection most recognisable by 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. However, it 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, said Public Health England. Cases were reported across England, predominantly in young adults aged 15 to 34.

Some 301 new measles infections were also confirmed between April and June 2019 compared to 231 in the first quarter of 2019. Most cases - 266 - were in unvaccinated people aged 15 years and over.

As part of the Value of Vaccines campaign, universities are being encouraged to share vaccine information and resources with their students ahead of and during university termtime, to ensure all students are aware of the importance of vaccination, particularly MMR and MenACWY (meningitis).

Angela Hardman, deputy director health protection at Public Health England North West, said: “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.

“We’re urging parents and their children, no matter how old they are, to check they’ve had two doses of MMR 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.”

Nearly half of the mumps cases this quarter were unvaccinated. While the mumps component of the MMR (measles, mumps and rubella) 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 have 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 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.

Students going to university or college for the first time, including overseas and mature students, who have not yet had the MenACWY vaccine remain eligible up to their 25th birthday.

The MenACWY vaccine is given by a single injection into the upper arm and protects against four different kinds of the meningococcal bacteria that cause meningitis and septicaemia: A, C, W and Y.

The MenACWY vaccine is the best form of protection against these deadly diseases.

For more information about vaccinations, see

Measles is a highly infectious viral illness that can be very unpleasant and sometimes lead to serious complications. It is now uncommon in the UK because of the 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 seven to 10 days. Complications include pneumonia, ear infections, brain inflammation (encephalitis) and even death.

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

It is most recognisable by 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 38°C (100.4°F), or above

In about one in three cases, mumps does not cause any noticeable symptoms.