Clusters of mumps cases in Ontario and Alberta cities, as well as within the NHL, have public officials reminding all Canadians to check that their vaccinations are up to date. We checked in with physicians at Medcan to find out what we need to know.
In Toronto, over 20 cases of mumps have been confirmed among people 18 to 35 years of age who frequented bars in the city’s west end. Alberta Health Services has confirmed 9 cases of the mumps, all involving hockey players, coaches and those close to members of the team. NHL hockey players in Vancouver and Minnesota have also recently been diagnosed.
The majority of these cases were not immunized or under-immunized. While the risk to the general public is low, the symptoms are severe enough to warrant prevention and public health awareness.
“The best prevention against the mumps is proper vaccination,” says Dr. Jason Abrams, Associate Medical Director at Medcan. “The more people that are properly vaccinated in the community, the less chance of an outbreak in that community. This describes the concept of “herd immunity” – when people who get vaccinated properly also help to protect the other members of their community who are not eligible for the vaccination for medical reasons.”
Mumps is an acute infectious disease caused by mumps virus. Mumps is spread from person to person through coughing, sneezing, and coming into contact with a person’s saliva by sharing drinks or utensils, food or water bottles, or by kissing. A major factor contributing to outbreaks is being in a crowded environment, such as attending the same class, playing on the same sports team or living in a dormitory with a person who has mumps.
Signs and symptoms of mumps include swelling and pain in one or more salivary glands (sides of cheeks and jaw), low grade fever, muscle aches and pains, headache, loss of appetite, fatigue and anorexia. These symptoms can last up to 10 days. Inflammation of testes occurs in 20-30% of post-pubertal male cases and inflammation of the ovaries in 5% of post-pubertal female cases. Mumps infection in the first trimester of pregnancy may increase the rate of spontaneous abortion. Severe symptoms include deafness in an estimated rate of 0.5 to 5 per 100,000 reported mumps cases.
“I prefer to provide this second vaccination closer to age 4 because over the past few years there have been sporadic outbreaks of disease, primarily affecting those either never vaccinated or having had only one shot,” says Dr. Janice Weiss, Director of the Child and Youth Program at Medcan.