FRESHERS and returning university students are being urged to check they are up to date with vaccines following an increase in mumps cases.

Latest figures show that 457 cases of mumps were confirmed in the North West between April and June, 2019 as 2,028 cases were confirmed across England. This compares to 795 cases confirmed in England last quarter.

Mumps is a contagious viral infection most recognisable by the painful swellings in the side of the face under the ears (the parotid glands), giving a person with mumps a distinctive “hamster face” appearance. Mumps can lead to viral meningitis if the virus moves into the outer layer of the brain, says Public Health England. Other complications may affect a person’s fertility.

The increase in mumps has been mostly driven by outbreaks in university students. Cases were reported mainly in young adults aged 15 to 34 years.

Some 301 new measles infections were also confirmed in the period between April and June 2019 compared to 231 in the first quarter of 2019. Most cases were in unvaccinated people aged 15 years and over.

Angela Hardman, of Public Health England North West, said: “Although it is normal to see mumps outbreaks in universities every few years, we are seeing a significant number of cases — the highest quarterly figure since 2009. We’re urging parents and their children, no matter how old they are, to check they’ve had two doses of MMR before the university term starts.

“Measles is easy to catch and can kill. Vaccines are there to stop the spread of disease and save lives. It’s never too late to protect yourself and others.”