Mumps outbreak postpones Alberta inter-university hockey series

An outbreak of the mumps has hit Calgary with 43 cases since October, forcing the cancellation of a weekend hockey series and a warning to players to take precautions.

More than 6 Calgary-area hockey teams have reported cases of the virus

Six players on the University of Calgary Dinos' men's hockey team have the mumps, forcing the cancellation of two weekend hockey games against the University of Alberta.

Dinos coach Scott Atkinsonsaid Wednesdayup to 14 other playersare exhibiting symptoms. The team has called off several games in addition to the Canada West series to allow the players to recuperate and prevent the illness from spreading to more teams.

"We train in similar places. You know, the environment is very, veryconducive to passing it on," he said. "Sweaty people andtouching surfaces and then other people going and touching that surface. It's kind of a prescription on how to get it."

The Dinos and the University of Alberta's Golden Bears were scheduled to play in Edmonton this Friday night and then in Calgary on Saturday.

Mumps is a highly contagious virus spread through saliva, and causes fever, swelling and pain in the parotid glands, located in front of the ears and below the cheekbones. In rare cases, it can lead to brain inflammation.

More than six hockey teams in the Calgary region have reported mumps cases since Oct. 1, health officials said Wednesday.

Players often share water bottles and mouthguards, which explains the spread of the virus, said Dr. Judy MacDonald, deputy medical officer of health for the Calgary Health Region.

The mumps outbreak originally started in Lethbridge with seven cases in October, and has spread to 23 casesin the Chinook Health Region.

There have been 57 cases in Calgary so far this year —43 since Oct. 1 — compared to six last year.Alberta usually sees three to 16 casesof mumps annually.

The U of A, which has reported no confirmed cases, was already in the process of trying to immunize 34,000 staff and students this week. The University of Calgary has also been running free vaccination clinics on campus.

The province is offering free mumps shots to all Albertans ages 17 to 26 next week.