The HSE has today issued a warning urging people to be vigilant due to outbreaks of mumps reported across the country.
Speaking on RTÉ radio’s Morning Ireland today, the HSE's assistant national director for Health Protection, Dr Kevin Kelleher, urgently appealed for students to ensure they get the mumps vaccine before returning to classes.
Dr Kelleher explained that there had been a rise in the numbers of young people contracting the disease over the past 15-18 months.
Over 130 cases of the viral infection were reported to the Health Protection Surveillance Centre last week.
The HSE said the outbreak started in 2018 and has continued to spread. "This is as a consequence of the large percentage of 15 to 30-year-olds who do not have full cover. At least two doses of the vaccine are required for immunity," Dr Kelleher explained.
Infants usually receive the MMR vaccine against mumps at 12 months and then again upon entering primary school, but some people may not be fully vaccinated.
In addition, the HSE has contacted the Union of Students in Ireland (USI) to urge students to check on the status of their immunisation record as the vaccine can still be administered.
Dr Kelleher called on anyone who has not had the vaccine to get it before they return to classes.
“We are trying to ensure that it (mumps) doesn’t carry on and affect their performance during exams," he said.
Mumps is a highly contagious viral infection, and the most common symptom of mumps is a swelling of the parotid glands. The glands are located on both sides of the face and the swelling gives a person a distinctive 'hamster face' appearance.
The HSE say the symptoms of mumps usually develop between 14 and 25 days after being infected with the virus. The average incubation period is around 17 days.
Other symptoms of the mumps include: headache, joint pain, nausea, dry mouth, mild abdominal pain, fatigue, loss of appetite, inflammation of ovaries, testicles, deafness, high temperature (fever) of 38ºC or above.
The HSE advises people to contact their GP if they suspect that they, or their child, has mumps.