Are you protected against mumps?

The Middlesex London Health Unit is urging university and college students to ensure they're vaccinated against mumps after receiving reports of several laboratory- confirmed cases of the virus among that age group.

Four people in London have been diagnosed with the mumps, so the outbreak is far from an epidemic, acknowledged the MLHU, but the university and college settings that bring together large numbers of people make for excellent places to spread the virus.

People born after 1970 are urged to get a second dose of the MMR vaccine, which protects against measles, mumps and rubella. People born before 1970 have likely already been exposed to the virus and have a natural immunity, according to the MLHU, but people born before 1970 who work in health care or the military also should seek a second vaccination.

The MMR vaccine is available at doctors' offices across the city, the MLHU at 50 King St. and on campus at the Fowler-Kennedy Clinic in SC1001, if you can provide proper documentation that you still require a dose.

The mumps virus can cause fever, headaches, muscle aches and fatigue. The majority of people recover from mumps, but complications can include infections of the brain, ovaries, breasts or pancreas, and in rare cases, the virus can cause deafness. One-third of men infected with mumps develops an infection in his testicles and in rare cases this may result in infertility. Pregnant women who get mumps during the first trimester are at increased risk of miscarriage.

Besides getting the vaccine, you can avoid spreading mumps by not sharing drinks, cigarettes, lip gloss or eating utensils; avoid kissing on the mouth; coughing and sneezing into the crook of your arm rather than your hands; and washing your hands frequently.

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