Officials with Health Protection Scotland (HPS) are reporting a surge in mumps cases during the first quarter of 2015, reporting some 5-times the number of cases reported during the same period last year, mostly in young adults.

Mumps virus/CDC
Mumps virus/CDC

HPS officials report in the first 12 weeks of 2015, there have been 242 laboratory-confirmed mumps cases reported to authorities. This is a considerable increase from the 45 laboratory-confirmed cases reported in the same period in 2014.

The total number of mumps cases in Scotland in 2014 was 286 laboratory-confirmed cases of mumps, and in 2013, 239 laboratory-confirmed cases seen.

Health officials say the increase is associated with an ongoing outbreak of mumps linked to cases both in the community and educational establishments. Of those laboratory-confirmed cases who had reported ages, the median age was 21 years (range <1-84 years) and 68% were in the 15-24 year age band.

The clinical director of Health Protection Scotland, Dr Syed Ahmed, said the largest current mumps outbreaks were in Aberdeen, Dundee, Glasgow and Edinburgh – cities with large numbers of students – as well as Lanarkshire, The Daily Record reports.

A possible reason for young adults being disproportionally affected is that they are often underimmunized against mumps virus as they have not routinely been offered two doses of the MMR vaccine (measles, mumps and rubella), health officials note.

These people may have been part of the schools catch-up campaign in 1994 in which they received the MR vaccine (measles and rubella) which does not contain a component against mumps.

Mumps is a contagious virus that spreads from person-to-person via droplets of saliva or mucus from the mouth, nose, or throat of an infected person, usually when the person coughs, sneezes, or talks. An infected person can spread the virus before being sick. The virus is also spread when someone with mumps touches items or surfaces without washing their hands, and then someone else touches the same item or surface and rubs their mouth or nose.

Symptoms, which can appear up to 25 days after being exposed, may include fever, headache, muscle aches, tiredness, loss of appetite, and swollen or tender salivary glands under the ears on one or both sides of the head. The most common complication of mumps infection in adults is testicular inflammation, which can lead to infertility. Rare complications include meningitis, encephalitis, inflammation of the ovaries, and deafness. Anyone experiencing mumps symptoms should contact a healthcare professional. Nearly half of people with mumps have very mild or no symptoms and might not know they are infected.

Anyone infected with the mumps virus should stay home for five days after symptoms begin and minimize close contact with other people. They should avoid sharing drinks or eating utensils and should cover all coughs and sneezes, wash their hands frequently with soap and water, and regularly clean frequently-touched surfaces.

Related: More news from Scotland