There were fears of a new outbreak of mumps amongst the student population this week, with at least one confirmed case at Christ Church being recorded.
There have been two serious outbreaks of mumps in the last four years at the University, with a particularly bad spate of cases in 2010 which saw 45 students sent home to recover from the illness.
This has caused particular concern as mumps mostly affects older teenagers and young adults, in whom it can be a much more serious disease than in children. Extreme cases can have potential long-term effects such as deafness and meningitis. University students are particularly at risk because many who were born between 1988 and 1993 received one dose of the MMR vaccine, but not the ‘booster’ shot which became mandatory for those born in 1994 or later.
According to official University advice, “Mumps is a highly infectious, serious illness caused by a virus. The time from becoming infected to becoming unwell is around 14-21 days. People with the disease are most infectious just before they become unwell and for 5-10 days afterwards.
“Those students at particular risk are those entering university for the first time who have not received two doses of MMR and students of any age who have no history of MMR vaccination.
“Mumps usually starts with a fever and headache for a day or two. It then presents with swelling and soreness of the parotid salivary gland (located at the angle of the jaw, in front of the ears) and a flu like illness. Mumps can also cause swelling of the testicles or ovaries, ear infections and swelling of the pancreas.”
Rosie Gibson, a first-year historian at Hertford, expressed her concern, telling Cherwell, “As soon as I heard there was another case of mumps at the university, I was nervous. I can’t remember what vaccines I had when I was a kid, and with everyone living in close proximity to each other there’s no way of knowing who’s going to catch it, or how bad will be.”
Other students saw the bright side, however – Joe Day, a first-year biochemist, pointed out that “if it gets really bad, it might give me an excuse not to go to lectures. And if I do get it, then at least it means a week with no work to do.”
Any students who believe they may have mumps are advised to stay in their room and contact the college nurse or doctor.