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Mumps breakout among Utrecht Students

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In the past few weeks, several Utrecht students have been found to be infected with mumps. The GGD Utrecht (the public health service) advises students and staff of educational institutions to vaccinate against the infectious disease.

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The GGD Utrecht reports that the mumps outbreak has hit several student flats in Utrecht. According to the municipal health service, there are currently about eight students who have checked in during the last two weeks. This is more than usual; the previous years there have been only a few cases in the whole region.

GGD recommends vaccinations
Students van staff of educational institutions are therefore advised to have themselves vaccinated if they are not or not fully vaccinated against mumps. This probably applies to only a small group. The vaccination rate in Utrecht for mumps-measles-rubella is around 94 percent because the vaccination has been part of the national vaccination program since the 1980s.

The percentage of non-vaccinated students is probably even lower among students, says Diederik Brandwagt, infectious disease control doctor at the GGD. “The current students were vaccinated 10 to 20 years ago, when the vaccination rate in general was slightly higher. But there are certainly people who are not or not fully vaccinated.” Those who have been fully vaccinated have received a BMR vaccination when they were 14 months and 9 years old.

That does not mean that those who are vaccinated cannot fall ill. The majority of infected Utrecht students have been fully vaccinated. “It is known that the protection the vaccination provides is declining in some of the young adults,” the GGD said. This may be because the vaccine does not provide adequate protection against new variants of the virus. However, there is no point in vaccinating a third time. People who have been fully vaccinated are better protected against mumps complications, according to the GGD.

More frequent mumps outbreaks among students
It is not the first time that there has been a mumps outbreak among students. In 2010, the GGD Utrecht organized special vaccination days for students, because they were remarkably frequently infected with the disease. In less than half a year, 26 cases were reported. At the time, the National Institute for Public Health and the Environment (RIVM) suspected that students are more susceptible to ‘childhood illness’ because they often move in large groups. And they also have many social contacts, which means that the virus can be transmitted faster.

At this moment, no direct link was found between the students who were first infected with the disease. They do not follow the same study, are not members of the same association and have not been to the same activity.

Mumps is an infectious disease caused by the mumps virus, writes the GGD in the information letter Mumps (pdf in Dutch, ed.). The disease often begins with flu-like symptoms, followed by a few days of inflammation of the salivary glands, which can give a characteristic swelling of the cheek or neck. Most cases of illness are fully recovered after a week. In some cases, complications can occur such as hearing damage or testicular infection, which can reduce a man’s fertility. The mumps virus is located in the throat of someone who is infected. Coughing and sneezing cause small droplets of the virus in the air. This can cause others to become infected. The time between getting infected and getting ill is two to three weeks. Someone who has had mumps cannot contract the disease again.
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