WINNIPEG — The number of Manitobans who have been sick with mumps over the last six months continues to grow.
In Manitoba, 184 cases have been confirmed between Sept. 1, 2016 and March 2, according to the province’s health officials.
“Our last outbreak was about three years ago,” said chief medical officer of health Dr. Richard Rusk. “That was 12 cases. It was nothing in comparison to this.”
Manitoba normally sees approximately five cases of mumps each year. With 184 since September, this outbreak is 36 times higher than normal.
The outbreak started nearly six months ago and quickly spread. It took a big toll on the University of Manitoba Bisons football team last October.
“We were on the road in Calgary and our head therapist called me before breakfast and said ‘you need to come down here,’” said head coach Brian Dobie. “We went and played the football game and lost 15-18 per cent of our entire travel roster. They had to be quarantined.”
WATCH: Manitoba Bisons head coach tells story of mumps spreading through team
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.
“The Wheat Kinds ended up having a few cases and in Steinbach there was a hockey team that had a few cases,” said Dr. Rusk.
But now it has spread to the general population.
Mumps cases are being seen in all ages and throughout Manitoba, according to provincial officials.
“It starts in universities and usually it is contained there,” said Dr. Rusk. “But sometimes, like now, it spreads to communities.”
Mumps is a highly contagious viral infection. It has an incubation period of about two weeks. It spreads through saliva or mucus, usually from coughing, sneezing or talking, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
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.
It can take between 14 and 25 days for the symptoms to show and patients are the most contagious in the few days prior to that.
A vaccination that protects people from mumps is offered free of charge at 12 months of age and again at four to six in Manitoba
The province said anyone born between 1970 and 1996 may especially be at risk because during that time period not every child got a second vaccination.
“We have this cohort of people out there that potentially only had one vaccination and so they are only partially immune,” said Dr. Rusk. “They are not as immune as if they had had the full course.”
On Feb. 24, the province sent out a letter to schools and daycares across Manitoba saying the infection has been spreading among children.
“Manitoba Health, Seniors and Active Living would like to ensure that all parents and guardians are aware of the situation and know how to recognize the symptoms of mumps, understand how to prevent its spread and know what to do if they suspect they or their children may be infected with the mumps virus,” the letter stated.
To reduce the spread of mumps, the province recommends:
- Wash your hands often with soap and water or use hand sanitizer.
- Avoid sharing drinking glasses or eating utensils.
- Cover coughs and sneezes with your forearm or a tissue.
- Stay at home when sick.
With files from Carmen Chai