Mumps

Information for students and staff - updated 28 February 2020 at 2.45pm

Recently published data from Public Health England (PHE) has shown a sizeable increase in the number of mumps cases over the last twelve months in England.

The symptoms

Mumps is a contagious viral infection which is recognised by the painful swelling at the side of the face under the ears, giving those with mumps a ‘hamster face’ appearance. Other symptoms, which normally come on a few days before the facial swelling develops, include:

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

What to do if you think you have mumps

Contact your GP or call NHS 111. Let them know in advance if you are going in to the surgery so they can take any necessary precautions to prevent the spread of infection.

If you are not yet registered with a local GP, you can register with the University Medical Centre

Treating mumps

There is currently no medication to cure mumps so treatment is focused on relieving symptoms. You should get plenty of bed rest and fluids, take painkillers and apply a warm or cold compress to the swollen glands to help ease any pain.

Most people usually recover from mumps without serious damage to their health. Serious complications are rare. But mumps can lead to inflammation of the ovaries or testicles, viral meningitis or deafness.

How mumps is spread

Mumps is spread in the same way as colds and flu: through infected droplets of saliva that can be inhaled or picked up from surfaces and transferred into the mouth or nose.

If you have symptoms of mumps, you can help prevent it spreading by:

  • regularly washing your hands with soap
  • using and disposing of tissues when you sneeze
  • staying away from others, and not attending university, for at least five days after your symptoms first develop

Preventing mumps

The MMR (Measles Mumps Rubella) vaccine is the safest and most effective way to protect yourself against these infections. If you are not sure whether you have been vaccinated, check with your GP. If you haven’t had the MMR vaccine your GP will be able to vaccinate you.

Different countries offer different immunisations, so if you were born or brought up overseas you may not have been immunised against all the virus covered by the MMR vaccine. If you don’t have a record of the vaccines you have received or are unsure, speak to your GP.

Frequently asked questions

Why is mumps more common these days?

A significant proportion of young adults did not receive the MMR vaccine as part of their childhood vaccination schedule. Most cases occur in those who have not been vaccinated or did not have mumps as a child.

Is it too late for me to have the MMR vaccine now?

No. Your GP should be able to tell you if you had the MMR vaccine when you were younger. If you didn’t, they will be able to vaccinate you. You will need two doses of the vaccine.

Are there any side effects with the MMR vaccine?

The side effects are usually mild, and much milder than the potential complications of measles, mumps and rubella. This NHS leaflet explains more about the MMR vaccine.

I had mumps when I was younger – will I be able to catch it again?

Once you have been infected by the mumps virus you normally develop a life-long immunity to further infection.

I think I’ve been in contact with someone who has mumps. What should I do?

Call NHS 111 who will be able to advise you.

I have mumps and have to share bathroom facilities etc with other students. How do I protect them from catching the infection from shared areas?

Let your house/flat mates and your hall warden know you have mumps. Don’t use the kitchen areas etc at the same time as your friends - you could agree a schedule for using shared areas. Then use anti-viral cleaning products on surfaces and door handles etc after you have touched them. You should also continue to follow the basic hygiene advice: regularly washing your hands with soap and using and disposing of tissues when you sneeze.

I’ve been told I have mumps, but I feel OK. Can I continue to attend lectures and go out as normal?

No. You will put others at risk of catching the infection. You should stay away from others, and not attend university, for at least five days after your symptoms first develop. You should also wash your hands regularly with soap, and use and dispose of tissues when you sneeze. Please contact your academic school to let them know you will be absent.

I have (or have had) mumps and feel that this has negatively impacted my performance on my programme. What do I need to do?

If you feel that mumps has adversely affected your performance in an assessment, or your ability to study, prepare or participate in your programme of study more generally, you should follow the mitigating circumstances process. If you have an upcoming coursework assessment deadline, but you feel the impact is only short-term (up to 48 hours), then you should follow the guidance for coursework extensions instead.