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Dublin universities send warnings to students over mumps outbreak in the capital

In September, Health Protection Surveillance Centre was notified of 69 cases of mumps.

Image: Shutterstock/Tero Vesalainen

WARNINGS HAVE BEEN issued to university students in Dublin after the HSE confirmed that mumps cases have increased as students return to schools and colleges.

Earlier this month, the Health Protection Surveillance Centre (HPSC), Ireland’s specialist agency for the surveillance of communicable diseases, confirmed that the national mumps outbreak that started in 2018 is still ongoing. 

DCU, UCD and TU Dublin have provided students with information about mumps over the past number of weeks.

Mumps activity peaked in May of this year, but it declined during the summer months. 

Since the second week of September, however, mumps cases have increased again, according to the HPSC. 

This coincided with the reopening of schools, colleges, institutes of technology and universities. 

Mumps is spread between people by coughing and sneezing and can be transmitted through direct contact with saliva. 

Symptoms include fever, headache and painful swollen salivary glands.

In September, 69 cases were notified to HPSC compared to 56 notifications for the same time period in 2018. Nearly half of these notifications are from the HSE east region.

From the beginning of the year until the end of September, a total of 1,765 cases of mumps were identified in Ireland, compared to a total of 575 for 2018. 

Most cases (58.5%) were in the 15-24 year age group. 

Among those in the 15-24 year age group, school, university or social settings were reported as the most likely place where mumps cases were infected, according to the HPSC. 

Overall, 72 cases (4%) were reported as hospitalised, the average hospitalisation was 4 days.

University warning

As a result of the increase in cases, UCD has now issued an email to students alerting them of the current outbreak in the Dublin area. 

The email reads: “The HSE report that most cases in the 15 to 24-year-old age group and there have been many cases appearing in colleges and in university students.”

The email goes on to outline the symptoms of mumps and how to prevent the spread of infection. 

mumps A copy of the email sent to UCD students regarding mumps

Those who have mumps are being urged not to attend college for five days following the onset of the swelling. 

Students are also being asked to ensure that they have had two doses of the MMR vaccine. 

“If you have not had two doses of MMR vaccine you should attend your own GP or student health service to get the vaccine,” the email reads. 

UCD students who have symptoms suggestive of mumps are being asked to call their GP or the UCD student health reception on 01 716 3134 to make an appointment. 

“Please inform them that you suspect that you may have mumps so that we can ensure you are placed in a safe area and not the general waiting room prior to your appointment,” the email reads.

TU Dublin has confirmed six cases of mumps since the beginning of the academic year. 

“We are very aware of the increase in reported cases of mumps among university students generally in Dublin, and our student health centre actively promoted vaccination to students when it was first notified last academic year,” a spokesperson for the university said. 

“For new students coming to TU Dublin in September, we included information about mumps and vaccination in the welcome pack that was posted out to each student, and it was highlighted in the subsequent student orientation events and on the website,” they said. 

Any TU Dublin students presenting with symptoms similar to mumps is advised to go to the student health centre in the first instance. 

DCU also issued an email to students and staff regarding mumps earlier this month. 

In a statement, a spokesperson for DCU said: “The DCU student health centre is following HSE guidelines by encouraging students to take the necessary precautions to protect themselves and to check their vaccination history. 

“The centre has provided important information to students about what symptoms to look out for and where to go if they have any concerns.”

Vaccinations

The HPSC says the best protection against mumps is to be age appropriately vaccinated with the MMR vaccine. 

Children are routinely recommended the MMR vaccine at 12 months and at the age of 5-6 through the national immunisation programme. 

Older children and adults particularly those born since 1978, who never had the MMR vaccine or only one dose, should speak to their GP about getting the vaccine, the HPSC says. 

Receiving two doses of MMR vaccine will protect about 88% of individuals who have received the vaccine against clinical mumps.

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