Hundreds of mumps cases have been reported and confirmed in Manitoba, more than 100 times the yearly average for the province.
Health officials say the rise in cases was first noted last October, but has continued to take a toll on patients around the province.
There have been 614 cases reported from Jan. 1 to June 30 of this year. To put that in perspective, Manitoba normally sees approximately five cases of mumps each year.
Officials told Global News they need to get vaccination rates up.
“Compared to other provinces, we are on the lower side,” Medical Officer of Health Dr. Richard Rusk said. “Our completion rate is only at about 75 per cent.”
During an outbreak, that rate needs to be above 90 per cent to have ‘herd immunity.’
Herd immunity is a form of indirect protection from infectious disease that occurs when a large percentage of a population has become immune to an infection. It provides a level of protection for individuals who are not immune.
WATCH: Health expert discusses mumps outbreak in March
The province has reached a point where cases are more than 120 times the yearly average.
However, even in the midst of an outbreak, the province said vaccinations will remain recommended but not required.
“We don’t believe in mandatory vaccination, we certainly feel there should be strong education, strong encouragement, but not mandatory vaccination,” Manitoba Health Minister Kelvin Goertzen said Thursday. ”
“We prefer to encourage people, to educate people, there is an ability for people to still make some decisions for things that happen with their own health. That doesn’t mean we don’t want people of course to be doing the right thing.”
The outbreak started more than a year ago in the Manitoba.
Initially the majority of cases were University students between 18 to 29 years of age, living in Winnipeg, or involved with or participate in sports.
However, cases have spread to include a variety of ages and demographics.
Global News broke down the numbers by health region which shows an overwhelming number of the reported cases came from the Northern Regional Health Authority (NRHA).
The NRHA has had 364 mumps cases this year. The next highest number of reported cases was in the Winnipeg Regional Health Authority which has had 79.
The outbreak forced the Winnipeg Blue Bombers to postpone a planned event for wildfire evacuees from northern First Nations.
“We are incredibly disappointed we cannot host the evacuees who have been displaced from their homes,” read a statement from the Bombers. “However, the safety of guests, fans, and players is the top priority of the Winnipeg Football Club when hosting events at the stadium.”
Cases are confirmed through Public Health investigation. 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.