Mumps outbreak raises issues over vaccination responsibility

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WATCH ABOVE: A mumps outbreak has authorities warning people to ensure their vaccinations are up-to-date. While everyone is supposed to be responsible for their own health care, Meaghan Craig looks at whether health care professionals can be doing a better job at educating people – Mar 1, 2017

Piecing together old immunization information can be difficult, but with a possible mumps outbreak looming in this province, you’ll want to be updated on your records sooner rather than later.

In Manitoba, there have been 176 confirmed cases of the viral infection reported between Sept. 1, 2016 and Feb. 24, 2017 – the highest number of cases in two decades.

READ MORE: Mumps outbreak in neighbouring provinces a concern for Sask. health officials

Mumps is also making a comeback in parts of Alberta and Toronto, with health officials here bracing for an outbreak of our own.

“To be protected from mumps, you need to get a series of two doses [of vaccine] because one dose will protect, but is not absolute,” said Dr. Johnmark Opondo, deputy medical health officer for the Saskatoon Health Region (SHR).
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In Saskatchewan, if you were vaccinated before the 1990s, you only had a single shot, whereas children born today receive two.

Health officials also point out that vaccines are a lifelong process – they don’t just stop after your childhood and school-age shots. Plus, by getting vaccines in adulthood you’re protecting not only yourself, but also the most vulnerable, including infants less than two months old.

“We are all offering protection to some of the people who can’t be immunized,” Opondo said.

READ MORE: Everything you need to know about mumps and why it’s making a comeback

Here are the handful of vaccines you should get as an adult.

The problem is with the hustle and bustle of life, many people these days are barely remembering to get their children’s shots on schedule, let alone keep track of their own.

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Parents with infants are sent reminders from the public health department by letter, a phone call, or even text message, but typically adults don’t receive such reminders.

“I think there is a role for reminding people, and it just has not been the practice,” Opondo added.

READ MORE: Hockey handshakes in Alberta banned during mumps outbreak

In 2015, SHR declared a whooping cough outbreak after there were 61 confirmed cases that year, up from the usual 10 cases a year and 20 to 30 province-wide.

The majority of cases were adults who hadn’t received a booster shot – and that’s where having a regular doctor to rely on for records can be helpful.

“Part of the challenge for many people is that they don’t have a good, ongoing relationship with a family physician,” said Bryan Salte, associate registrar with the College of Physicians and Surgeons of Saskatchewan.

Salte said most people get care that is more episodic and the physician deals with the problems at hand but not long-ranging issues that a good family physician can help with.

“It can be very helpful for that physician to maintain that record, and perhaps on an annual visit or bi-annual visit go through and be able to say, ‘Have you had this test? What’s the status of your vaccination?'” said Salte. “This can be especially important for children.”

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Taking control of their own health is also up to patients, officials say, so find out your vaccination status by calling a public health office in the region where you get your shots.

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