From the Vancouver Canucks to west-end bars in Toronto, mumps outbreaks are being reported across the country. In Manitoba, 176 cases have been confirmed, according to the province’s health officials.
Mumps is a highly contagious viral infection. It has an incubation period of about two weeks. After that, the symptoms will kick in: fever, headache or earache, tiredness, sore muscles, dry mouth, and the trademark puffy cheeks and neck. This is known as parotitis.
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“Cases of mumps continue to be reported in Manitoba. While initially the majority of cases were university students between 18 and 29 years of age, living in Winnipeg, or involved with or participate in sports, mumps cases are now being seen in all ages and throughout Manitoba,” the province’s health agency warned.
The 176 confirmed cases reported to the health department were between Sept. 1, 2016 and Feb. 24, 2017.
“Public health investigation also determines if the cases are linked to the ongoing outbreak with the University of Manitoba students and identifies any places they have visited and potential people they may have been in contact with during the period when they were contagious,” the public health notice said.
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Just like the chicken pox and measles, mumps is highly contagious. It spreads through saliva or mucus, usually from coughing, sneezing or talking, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
In Toronto, health officials tied a mumps outbreak that got 17 people sick to bars in the city’s west end. In Medicine Hat, a mumps outbreak sparked an alert as the Western Hockey League tried to tame the spread of the virus. It has hit the University of Alberta and the Vancouver Canucks hockey team.
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And don’t forget 2014’s outbreak of mumps that made its way through NHL locker rooms. Sidney Crosby, Corey Perry and Ryan Suter were among the superstars that fell victim to mumps.
It makes sense, experts say. There’s a reason why some infectious diseases spread like wildfire through sports teams, cruise ships, daycares and old age homes, for example.
It’s all about being within close proximity with people shedding the virus or sharing items with them.
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“This is why you start seeing it on hockey teams. I don’t know if you’ve ever seen what happens in a hockey game but there’s spitting and snorting and you see the splash of fluids and you don’t know what it’s supposed to be,” Jason Tetro, a Canadian microbiologist and author of The Germ Files, said.
“There’s a lot of sharing going on. It’s not romantic but it’s still bodily fluids making the rounds,” Tetro explained.
Your best bet is to get vaccinated, the experts say.
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“No it’s not 100 per cent but it’s very, very good. It’s a very safe and very effective vaccine to prevent mumps,” Dr. Isaac Bogoch, a tropical infectious disease specialist at Toronto General Hospital and the University of Toronto, said.
If you’re not sure what your vaccination status is, visit your doctor to pull up your records or he or she can order a titre test, in which a doctor draws blood from an individual and a lab checks to see what the patient has immunity against or is susceptible to. This will uncover any missing vaccines or booster shots you may need.