Provincial health officials in Manitoba have confirmed new cases of the mumps, saying that the majority of the cases are students between the ages of 17 and 29 living in the Winnipeg area and attending either the University of Manitoba, the University of Winnipeg or Université de St. Boniface.
The report says that typically the province has four to five cases a year, but this year there have been 61 cases between September 1 and December 8.
While for the most part restricted to the student population, health officials warn that with the upcoming break in studies, infected students may be spreading the disease further around the province and abroad as the travel home for the holidays.
Earlier this fall, Manitoba issued a warning of a mumps outbreak, as Winnipeg Regional Health Authority reported nine cases in a two month period, again, with most cases restricted to the student population. The Health Authority investigates each case of mumps and identifies people who may have come into close contact with the illness.
While a free vaccination program has been in existence in the province for the past two decades, the level of vaccination against mumps in Manitoba is low –70 per cent of residents have been vaccinated, says Manitoba Health. And because the mumps vaccine is 85 per cent effective, the herd immunity in Manitoba stands at about 60 per cent, too low to effectively contain the spread of the disease, say health officials.
“There is a risk for this virus to continue to spread,” said a spokesperson in conversation with the CBC. “What is important is ensuring that as many people as possible are fully vaccinated, thereby increasing the overall herd immunity, will have the greatest impact on controlling the spread of this virus.”
Mumps is a virus that’s easily transmitted from person to person through infected saliva. A person can contract mumps from breathing air in which an infected person has just sneezed or coughed, by physical contact with the person or by sharing cups or utensils. The disease produces symptoms about two to three weeks after exposure, manifesting as swollen and painful salivary glands, fever, headache, weakness and loss of appetite.
Mumps is contagious usually from two or three days prior to the appearance of symptoms until four to five days after symptoms appear. Complications from the disease include inflammation in some parts of the body such as the testicles, ovaries, breasts and brain and, in rare cases, permanent hearing loss can result.
A report in the Ottawa Citizen says that while most Canadian parents do get their children vaccinated, a significant number admitted that they were concerned about potential side effects of vaccination, expressing what experts have dubbed vaccine hesitancy.
A 2013 National Coverage Immunization survey showed that while 95 per cent of parents agreed that vaccinations are safe, 70 per cent of them also stated their concern about side effects. 37 per cent of parents surveyed agreed with the false statement that vaccines can cause the same disease they serve to prevent, while another 17 per cent agreed with the false statement that alternative treatments can replace vaccines.
Manitoba health officials say people who think that they might have mumps or might have been in close contact with someone diagnosed with mumps should phone their health-care provider or phone Health Links–Info Santé at 204-788-8200 or 1-888-315-9257 (toll-free) for more information.