FRESHERS are being urged to check their vaccinations are up to date - as students prepare for the start of the university term.

Public Health England (PHE) North West is urging freshers and returning university students to check they’re up to date with vaccines before the start of the university term, following an increase in the number of cases of mumps across the UK.

Latest figures found 457 cases of mumps -301 of which were new cases - in the north west between April and June, with 2,028 cases of mumps confirmed across England within the same timeframe.

This compares to 795 cases confirmed in England during the last quarter, continuing the increase seen during the first quarter of 2019.

Mumps is a contagious viral infection most recognisable by the painful swellings on the side of the face, giving a person a distinctive “hamster face” appearance.

The infection usually passes without causing serious illness or severe complications, but mumps can lead to viral meningitis if the virus moves into the outer layer of the brain. Other complications include swelling of the testicles or ovaries (if the person has gone through puberty) which may affect fertility.

The increase in mumps has been mostly driven by outbreaks in university students. Most cases (266) were in unvaccinated people aged 15 and older.

As part of the Value of Vaccines campaign, PHE is encouraging universities to share vaccine information and resources with students ahead of and during university term time, to ensure all students are aware of the importance of vaccination, particularly MMR and MenACWY.

Angela Hardman, deputy director of health protection at 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.

“Coupled with the continued measles outbreaks, these figures clearly demonstrate the need for sustained high vaccination rates.

“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.”

Students are also being reminded to make sure they’ve had the MenACWY vaccine, which protects against meningitis and septicaemia (blood poisoning) – which can both be fatal.