Information about important vaccinations, and how to recognise the signs for meningitis, mumps and measles.
If you are under 25 and entering higher education for the first time, you should receive the MenACWY vaccine, ideally before coming to the University. If you have not already been immunised before arrival, this can be done by your college doctor.
This vaccination gives protection against a number of strains of meningitis, including group C. You should also be vigilant for the signs and symptoms of the group B strain of meningitis.
The symptoms of meningitis and septicaemia are:
- high temperature or fever
- being violently sick
- severe headache
- neck stiffness (can't touch your chin to your chest)
- joint or muscle pains
- feeling drowsy or lethargic
- confusion or disorientation
- rapid deterioration of health
- rash of tiny red/purple pin prick spots, which may spread to look like fresh bruising.
Meningitis rash: In the majority of cases, the rash does not disappear when pressed firmly, for example if you were to press a glass against it. The rash is harder to see on dark skin.
Do not wait for all the symptoms to appear, they may not.
Meningitis is a relatively rare disease, with between 2,500 and 3,000 cases being reported each year. Meningococcal disease, which can cause both meningitis and septicaemia, has a fatality rate between 10 per cent and 30 per cent. If you suspect meningitis or septicaemia:
- don't wait for all the symptoms to appear, if you are concerned that someone is unwell, seek medical advice immediately
- explain why you are concerned, describing the symptoms carefully. Ask for advice
- be prepared to insist, and ask if it could be meningitis
- if it is meningitis or septicaemia, early diagnosis and treatment are vital
- if your doctor is not available, go immediately to the nearest casualty department. Delay could be fatal
- if someone is ill and getting worse, even if they have already had medical attention, seek medical attention again.
Be caring: drop in on your friends if they do not appear when you are expecting them at a lecture, at a meal etc. You might save a life!
Mumps is a highly infectious serious illness caused by a virus. You are at particular risk if you have not received two doses of MMR or have no history of the MMR vaccination. If you have not had two doses of MMR vaccine you are at risk of contracting not only mumps but also measles or rubella.
The NHS recommends that young adults are protected against mumps by receiving two doses of MMR vaccine, which gives 90% protection. Check with your local doctor whether you have had two previous MMR vaccinations or have had mumps before (in 1994 some children received MR vaccine. This contains only measles and rubella. It does not protect against mumps.) If not, inform your new/college doctor in Oxford. If you have not had MMR or mumps infection previously, the best protection is to have two doses of MMR each one month apart. If you have had one previous MMR vaccination you should have another one now.
It usually starts with a fever and headache for a day or two. It then presents with swelling and soreness of the parotid salivary gland (located at the angle of the jaw, in front of the ears) and a "flu like" illness. Mumps can also cause orchitis (swelling of the testicles), oophoritis (swelling of the ovaries), ear infections and swelling of the pancreas. It can also affect the central nervous system causing meningitis or deafness.
What to do if you think you have mumps
Stay in your room or at home and call your college doctor, nurse or GP for advice. Do not go into the University or your college. Mumps can have serious consequences for your studies. You will probably be ill for 7-10 days and will need to stay away from lectures and tutorials and to limit social contact for a minimum of five days. The time from becoming infected to becoming unwell is around 14-21 days. You are most infectious just before you become unwell and for 5-10 days afterwards.
To protect yourself
- Two doses of MMR vaccine if not already vaccinated, but noting that this protection is only 90% and not immediate.
- Avoid intimate contact with others, especially kissing multiple partners or sharing drinking vessels, cutlery etc at a meal.
- Usual washing of cutlery and crockery between uses.
- Practice good hand hygiene, for example, before eating in case hands have been contaminated.
Avoid spreading mumps
- If ill contact the college nurse or GP to seek diagnosis.
- Self-isolate immediately and until five days after the onset of the mumps illness.
- Practice good hand hygiene (washing with soap and water or hand gel) especially after coughing or sneezing or if your hand may have touched your mouth.
- Using disposable tissues if coughing or sneezing.