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Mumps outbreak prompts alert, call to make sure vaccinations up to date
The Canadian Press
Published Tuesday, February 28, 2017 11:56AM CST
Last Updated Tuesday, February 28, 2017 2:44PM CST
A mumps outbreak in Manitoba has health officials in Saskatchewan worried that the virus is on the move and will appear in Saskatchewan.
"My concern is that it is just a matter of time," Dr. Denise Werker, Saskatchewan's deputy chief medical officer, said Tuesday.
"The other thing we're doing is alerting health-care providers around this. There are health-care providers who may never have seen mumps in their clinical practice, and so they need to be prompted to think about that when somebody presents with a swollen parotid gland."
There haven't been any cases in Saskatchewan so far this year. The Ministry of Health says there were seven reported cases from 2010 to 2016.
The alert comes after Manitoba Health said there have been 176 confirmed cases of mumps in that province since September and up to last Friday.
According to Manitoba Health's website, the majority of cases were initially university students between 18 and 29 years old, living in Winnipeg or involved in sports.
But it said mumps cases are now being seen in all ages and throughout Manitoba. One case involves a member of the Brandon Wheat Kings with the Western Hockey League.
In Alberta, seven players and a coach with the WHL Medicine Hat Tigers have also been hit by mumps. Officials also said there were up to four cases of mumps in Edmonton, which typically sees zero to two cases each year.
"Because we have it on both sides of our borders, and viruses generally don't respect borders, yes, we want Saskatchewan to be on alert for mumps," said Werker.
Symptoms include fever, swollen cheeks and neck. The virus is found in saliva and respiratory droplets. It is spread from person to person through coughing, sneezing, and coming into contact with an infected person's saliva by sharing drinks or utensils, or by kissing.
Hockey players share water bottles or can drip saliva on each other because they are in close contact, but the alert doesn't mean people should stop sport activities, Werker said.
"It is ... a wake-up call for everyone to make sure their vaccination is up to date and to take precautions in terms of what happens in the locker room, whose towels they use, whose water bottles they use."
A statement from the Western Hockey League last Friday said teams were being advised to take all necessary precautions, including sanitization of locker rooms and equipment. All clubs were also asked to review vaccination histories of players and staff and to strongly recommend vaccination if necessary.
"While there is an extremely low risk of spectators contracting the virus, the WHL has also instructed all WHL clubs to advise players to refrain from any direct contact with fans at this time," the statement read.
People born before 1970 are likely to have been exposed to mumps as a child and are considered to have natural immunity.
A vaccine for mumps was introduced in Saskatchewan in 1979, but people who were immunized between 1979 and 1990 may have only received one dose. It didn't become apparent until later that two doses were needed for the vaccine to be effective over the long term.
Some people got a second dose during a school-based immunization program that targeted Grade 8 and Grade 12 students in Saskatchewan from 2007 to 2013.
In Saskatchewan, infants now get the first mumps vaccine at 12 months and the second at 18 months.
But for those who only got a single dose, immunity is waning, said Werker.
"Anybody who does not have natural immunity, who's been in contact with somebody who has had mumps, has a possibility of getting mumps," she said.
"But the risks depend on your immunity, and that immunity is related to whether you've had one dose or two doses of vaccine and how long ago you had that vaccine."