Students warned of infections as they begin Uni term

AS students prepare for the start of the new academic year, the Public Health Agency (PHA) is urging teenagers and young adults to make sure they are protected against serious infections, such as measles, mumps and rubella.

The start of the university year is an exciting time, with new friends to meet, clubs to join and the start of student life. However, university bars and campuses, where lots of students are in close proximity, are ideal breeding grounds for bacteria and viruses to spread.

Measles is potentially fatal, therefore it is absolutely vital that all students ensure they are completely up to date with all their vaccinations, especially MMR.

Dr Richard Smithson consultant in health protection at PHA said, “Although in Northern Ireland the MMR vaccination uptake rate exceeds the target, there are still teenagers and young adults out there who may not have been vaccinated as toddlers or who did not receive the second dose of MMR and remain unprotected. Unfortunately this means that mumps and measles, which are highly infectious, are spreading easily among university students.”

Mumps is a viral illness transmitted by direct contact with saliva or droplets from the saliva of an infected person. It can be a serious disease and some people suffer complications which can include inflammation of the pancreas, inflamed and swollen testicles in men and ovaries in women, and it can also cause deafness.

Measles is potentially a very serious illness which can, on rare occasions, be fatal. It is highly infectious and is spread through direct contact with an infected person or through the air when an infected person coughs or sneezes.

Dr Smithson said, “There is no treatment for mumps or measles, but they can both be prevented by the safe and highly effective MMR vaccine. That’s why it’s so important for students to make sure they are fully immunised and have had two doses of the vaccine. We would encourage students to check with their parents or family doctor that they’ve had both doses of the vaccine and are fully immunised.

“However, it’s not just students, any unvaccinated teenagers and young adults are particularly vulnerable and should seek an appointment with their GPs.

“It’s never too late to get vaccinated. If you’ve missed out on MMR in the past it’s always possible to catch-up.”

Don’t let measles, mumps or rubella ruin the enjoyment of your student life.