STUDENTS going to university for the first time are encouraged to check they are up to date with their measles, mumps and rubella (MMR) and meningitis (MenACWY) vaccinations before they go.

There has recently been an increase in measles cases across England, as well as large measles outbreaks across Europe, and there were also outbreaks of mumps in universities in England earlier this year.

Teenagers and young adults who have not had two doses of MMR vaccine are particularly vulnerable to mumps and measles. They may also be at risk of meningitis as some are unknowing carriers of the meningococcal bacteria at the back of their noses and throats.

Dr Louise Clarke, clinical lead for young people for NHS Bradford district and Craven CCGs, said: “We strongly encourage young people in Bradford district and Craven to check they are up to date with their vaccinations, to keep themselves safe when they go to university. New students can be at a higher risk of infection because many of them mix closely with lots of people in confined environments. This can create hot spots for measles, mumps and meningococcal disease and present the perfect opportunity for the infection to spread.”

The MMR vaccine is available for free to anyone who has not received both doses as a child. If students are unsure, they can contact their GP practice to check and if they haven’t had two MMR doses, they should arrange a free catch up vaccination as soon as possible.

“We know that some students of university/college age may have missed out on their MMR when they were younger as MMR uptake was as low as 80% in 2003. This means that many young people remain unprotected,” adds Dr Clarke.

Measles is a highly infectious viral illness that can sometimes lead to serious complications and can be fatal in very rare cases. Mumps is a contagious viral infection and although complications are rare, they can include swelling of the ovaries, swelling of the testes, aseptic meningitis and deafness.

Alongside the MMR vaccine, it is also important to remind students, and freshers in particular, to get the MenACWY vaccine which protects against meningitis and septicaemia (blood poisoning) – which can both be fatal.

Councillor Sarah Ferriby, Bradford Council’s Executive Member for Health and Wellbeing, said: “Meningitis can be deadly, so anyone who is eligible for the MenACWY vaccine should have it, even if they’ve previously had the earlier MenC vaccine. The MenACWY vaccine is highly effective in preventing illness caused by the four meningococcal strains, including the virulent MenW strain. Students going to university for the first time who have not yet had the MenACWY vaccine, remain eligible up to their 25th birthday, even if they have previously had the MenC vaccine. They should contact their GP practice to have the MenACWY vaccination as soon as possible before starting their course. If they can’t do that, they should arrange to have this done as soon as they can after they start at university.”