Mumps has broken out in at least two colleges, jeopardising finalists’ exams and rowers’ Summer Eights efforts.
Cases have been confirmed by doctors in St Hilda’s and Corpus Christi, while students are reporting further unconfirmed cases in St John’s. Cherwell understands that several students who have caught the illness are approaching exams.
In an email to Corpus students, the Welfare Dean Judith Maltby told the college, “It has been brought to our attention that there are several cases of Mumps within the University and there have been two confirmed cases within Corpus.”
The email continued, “If it is confirmed that you have the virus you will be encouraged to go home (where possible) for 5 days. If going home is not possible please contact the College Office immediately.”
Students have alleged that Corpus’s Boat Club has been particularly affected. Students have stated that two M1 rowers, and one W1 rower, have been affected by the illness.
Clare Franklin, President of Corpus Christi College Boat Club, told Cherwell, “There have been three confirmed cases of mumps within the boat club, which is less than ideal in the run up to summer eights. However, all affected members have gone home, and we are hopeful that they will recover quickly.”
Guy Ward, a first year lawyer and rower for Corpus, said, “It’s certainly not helping our Summer Eights efforts, as rowers tend to be fairly close. All it takes is one rower to get it and, due to the proximity, everybody is at risk.”
There have also been four reported cases in St Hilda’s College. One medical student at St Hilda’s commented, “It seems like quite a few people have been affected, one of whom has had the MMR jab. No one is safe.”
Pete Evans, a first year German and Linguistics student at Hilda’s, said, “This outbreak is terrible for finalists. I hope the university takes the illness into account when marking exams, otherwise this could be disastrous for students.”
Oxford University’s Exam Regulations make allowances for illness. They state in section 11, if the examiners “consider, on the evidence of the work submitted, that but for the illness or other urgent cause affecting the candidate’s performance, he or she would have obtained Honours, they may deem the candidate to have obtained Honours.”
An Oxford University spokesperson was unable to confirm the number of students affected by mumps, but stated, “In any such case the network of college nurses and doctors will work in partnership with the local Health Protection Agency to take all the appropriate measures.”
She added, “Any student who suspects they might have mumps-like symptoms should stay in their room or at home and phone their college doctor, nurse or GP for advice.”
Mumps is a viral illness which is rarely fatal, but is highly contagious. Its symptoms include a headache and fever, followed by swelling and soreness of the parotid salivary gland, located behind the jaw.
According to the Oxford University website, “Over the last four years there has been a large outbreak of mumps in young adults across the UK and there has been a recent increase in mumps amongst students.”
Scientists have linked the recent growth in mumps outbreaks to public opposition to the Measles, Mumps and Rubella (MMR) jab, after a 1998 study linked the vaccination to autism. Its researcher, Andrew Wakefield, has since been struck off the medical register, and his conclusions are largely discredited.
However, after his findings were reported globally, the number of children receiving the vaccination in the UK fell from 92% to below 80%. The last major outbreak was in 2008, when 1348 cases were confirmed, and two people died.