There have been confirmed outbreaks of mumps at two UK universities recently, so it’s important to be aware of the signs and symptoms and what you can do to prevent infection.

Mumps is a contagious viral infection that causes painful swelling of the glands at the side of the face under the ears. Other symptoms include headaches, joint pain and a high temperature, which may develop a few days before the swelling.

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

Students may be more at risk than other groups due to spending lots of time in close proximity, for example in halls of residence, lecture theatres and bars/nightclubs.

In the UK, most people receive two doses of the MMR (measles, mumps and rubella) vaccine as a child which helps to protect you from contracting mumps. However, you it is still possible to catch mumps if you have had the vaccine, especially if you are in close contact with someone who is infected.

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 by:

  • washing your hands regularly with soap
  • using and disposing of tissues when you sneeze
  • avoiding contact with people for at least 5 days after your symptoms first develop

If you think you might have mumps, contact your GP in advance of going in to the surgery so they can take necessary precautions to prevent the spread of infection.

More information about mumps is available on the NHS webpages.