Universities are preparing for an outbreak of measles as students start their degree courses.

Doctors' practices in university towns and cities have been warned to expect a greater influx of students suffering from the disease.

Figures from the Health Protection Agency show that the number of confirmed cases so far this year is already more than twice that for the whole of 2010 – up from 374 cases to 777 by the end of July.

Several universities have sent out warnings to returning students that they should get MMR jabs if their vaccinations are not up to date. The HPA warned outbreaks could rise after students return to universities – the majority of cases have been confirmed in children and people under the age of 25. They were also concentrated in small clusters in universities and schools. Dr Mary Ramsay, head of immunisation at the HPA, said: "Measles and meningitis are infections that can both be fatal. It is vital that all students ensure they are completely up to date with all their vaccinations, especially in the MMR and Men C vaccine.

"University bars and campuses where lots of students are in close proximity are ideal places for bacteria and viruses to spread, which is why we may see more outbreaks of these infections in this environment."

The University of Westminster, which was told there had been outbreaks of the disease in two neighbouring universities, and Dundee College were among those to warn their students to get vaccinated.