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You might be aware we have seen an increase in the numbers of cases of mumps in recent weeks at the University of Exeter. Mumps is a highly contagious viral infection that used to be common in children before the introduction of the MMR. It’s most recognisable by the painful swellings at 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. You can read more about mumps and its symptoms here

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.

A person is most contagious a few days before the symptoms develop and for a few days afterwards.

During this time, it's important to prevent the infection spreading to others, particularly teenagers and young adults who haven't been vaccinated.

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

  • regularly washing your hands with soap
  • using and disposing of tissues when you sneeze
  • avoiding school or work for at least five days after your symptoms first develop

When to see your doctor

It's important to contact your doctor if you suspect mumps so a diagnosis can be made. While mumps isn't usually serious, the condition has similar symptoms to more serious types of infection, such as glandular fever and tonsillitis. You can contact the Student Health Centre in Exeter, or the Penryn Surgery in Cornwall, or your own doctor. 

What next?

For Measles Mumps and Rubella (MMR) vaccination to be up to 95% effective you need to have had two doses. Most students will have had these as children but, if you’re not sure, you should check your own family records or with your doctor. If you’ve had not had two doses of MMR, you will need an additional dose, and should contact your doctor to make an appointment. Find out more about the MMR vaccination.