British Columbia

Mumps outbreak hits Metro Vancouver

The B.C. Centre for Disease Control has issued a health alert for the mumps for the Lower Mainland, following an outbreak in Whistler earlier this spring.
B.C. health officials blame a lack of mumps immunization for an outbreak in the Lower Mainland, the CBC's Alan Waterman reports 2:11

The B.C. Centre for Disease Control has issued a health alert for the mumps for the Lower Mainland, following an outbreak in Whistler earlier this spring.

A total of 77 people have contracted the disease according to the BCCDC. About 50 of those cases were from an earlier outbreak in Whistler and Squamish and the rest have been in the Lower Mainland.

About 70 per cent of the case were between 18 and 35 years of age, but cases have ranged from one to 54 years of age.

"We do have cases in the Vancouver area now, whereas the earlier part of the outbreak was really in Whistler and Squamish," Dr. Monica Naus.

It's the first sizeable mumps outbreak in the province since 2008 and it is largely affecting young adults. But the centre did not say how many cases have been discovered or specify where it has been detected around Metro Vancouver or the Fraser Valley.

In 2008 nearly 200 people in the Fraser Valley and Metro Vancouver were infected with the normally rare virus. The outbreak was been traced back to a Fraser Valley religious group that opposes the mumps vaccination.

"Symptoms of mumps include fever, sore throat or cough, swelling of the salivary glands, usually the parotid glands, resulting in 'chipmunk cheeks'," said the alert, which was issued on Monday.

"Mumps can cause meningitis, and orchitis (inflammation of the testicles) which is more common in adult males and rarely results in sterility, as well as other serious complications such as deafness."

"It is spread by respiratory secretions through coughing and sneezing but also direct contact such as kissing or sharing utensils or water bottles."

"Anyone who suspects they have mumps should contact their physician by telephone first or call the HealthLink BC at 811. Mumps is contagious so anyone with this infection should avoid exposing others especially in medical waiting rooms and emergency rooms," according to the alert.

The centre is asking parents to immunize their children with the MMR vaccine and for adults to make sure their own immunizations are up to date.

"In B.C., children receive two doses of mumps vaccine at 12 and 18 months. The vaccine is given as the combined measles, mumps and rubella (MMR) vaccine, and provides protection against all three diseases. For best protection against mumps, those born in 1970 and later should also receive two doses."

Since 1995, children in B.C. have received a mumps vaccine at 12 months of age and 18 months, Dr. Perry Kendall, the provincial health officer said in 2008. But older children may have only gotten one dose of the vaccine, meaning they are at an 80 per cent level of protection, versus 95 per cent protection for those with a second dose.

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