UCL News


Spike in mumps cases in England – be vigilant

30 May 2019

There has been a significant increase in cases of mumps in England in recent weeks.

Spike in mumps cases in England

There have been large outbreaks of mumps across England in recent months amongst university students. Public Health England are now calling for people to ensure they have been appropriately immunised with the MMR vaccine.

Please remind students that have not yet been immunised to contact their GP as soon as possible to arrange the administration of the recommended 2 doses. A GP practice located close to UCL, Ridgmount Practice, can provide the MMR vaccine.

Most mumps cases are linked to university students. Students are more vulnerable to such infections due to living closely together in student residences and mixing with lots of new people.

Current cases are being linked to those within communities with low vaccination rates and travel to other countries with outbreaks (the USA, Ireland)

MMR vaccine

MMR is a combined vaccine that protects against measles, mumps and rubella (German measles). 

No vaccine provides guaranteed protection, so it is important to remain vigilant and aware of the symptoms in yourself and people around you.

What is mumps?

Mumps is a moderately to highly contagious acute viral infection. In mumps, the parotid salivary glands, located just below and in front of the ears, swell up and become painful. Mumps usually occurs in people who have never been or have only partially been immunised.

How do you catch mumps?

Mumps is spread through infected droplets via coughing, sneezing or coming into direct contact with the saliva of an infected individual. It can take 12 to 25 days to develop symptoms after being infected and individuals with mumps are infectious from up to a week before swelling of the glands develops until five days afterwards.

What are the symptoms?

According to the NHS, symptoms can include:

  • a runny or blocked nose
  • sneezing
  • watery eyes
  • swollen eyelids
  • sore, red eyes that may be sensitive to light
  • a high temperature (fever), which may reach around 40C (104F)
  • small greyish-white spots in the mouth
  • aches and pains
  • a cough
  • loss of appetite
  • tiredness, irritability and a general lack of energy

What should I do if I think I have mumps?

You should contact your GP immediately and mention that you suspect an infectious illness. Phone ahead of your visit to the GP surgery so that arrangements can be put in place to prevent others from being infected. 

Those who have been in close contact with somebody who has mumps should also see their GP if they have not been fully vaccinated (had two doses of the MMR vaccine) or haven’t had the infection before. You can also call NHS 111 to seek advice.

Is there any treatment?

Treatment is often aimed at relieving symptoms until the body’s immune system clears the virus. Ensure you drink plenty of fluids. Fruit juices can stimulate the parotid gland to make more saliva and cause more pain.

Most patients will make a full recovery within 7 days and have lifelong immunity.