1 confirmed case of mumps, multiple cases suspected among Island Lake evacuees in Winnipeg, Brandon

Measures to prevent the spread of mumps among evacuees from three fire-threatened First Nations are being put in place after a handful of people came forward with symptoms resembling the illness.

Roughly 4,200 people were evacuated from Wasagamack, Garden Hill and St. Theresa Point First Nations last week

Cots were set up Aug. 31 inside a temporary shelter for Island Lake evacuees at the Winnipeg Soccer Federation's indoor complex on Leila Avenue. One case of mumps among evacuees has been reported, and a handful of other cases are suspected. (Kari-Jane Hamilton/Submitted)

Measures to prevent the spread of mumps among evacuees from three Manitoba First Nations evacuated because of wildfires are being put in place after a handful of people came forward with symptoms resembling the illness.

A medical officer of health with the province said lab testing confirmed one case of mumps in an evacuee staying in Brandon, with more possible cases reported among evacuees in Brandon and Winnipeg.

Roughly 4,200 people from the Island Lake communities of Wasagamack, Garden Hill and St. Theresa Point First Nations were forced from their homes last week by an encroaching wildfire. Nearly 2,000 people were initially sheltered in emergency centres in Winnipeg, although that number had dropped to roughly 375 by Wednesday, according to the Red Cross.

As of Monday, four evacuees had presented with symptoms of mumps in addition to the confirmed case, said Dr. Richard Rusk, a medical officer of health with Manitoba Health.

Rusk said the number has likely gone up since then. Lab testing is ongoing to identify the illness.

The possible cases were reported over the weekend, Rusk said. Evacuees showing symptoms who were staying in emergency shelters in Winnipeg have been put into isolation in hotels to prevent further spread of the illness.

"This is part of public health intervention," Rusk said. "When they're staying in a big, communal setting like that, the first thing to do is to actually isolate them. We were able to get all these cases moved to hotels so that they can be isolated and have more individual care."

Northern Manitoba communities have been dealing with an outbreak of mumps for around a year, although cases in Winnipeg have been on the decline, Rusk said.

"This is actually, for me, completely expected. I knew that we'd have a few cases, and we have processes in place," he said.

"Actually, the northern communities have been very aware that the mumps outbreak has been ongoing for the last few months … and people have actually been very responsive to seeking care really quickly."

People sick with mumps don't typically notice symptoms right away, so evacuees feeling sick now likely already had mumps before the evacuation began, he added.

The province is also providing vaccinations for those with symptoms who haven't already had the mumps vaccine, Rusk said.

Vaccination rates among people from northern Manitoba are generally higher than among southern populations, he said.

"Even though they are now in a stadium setting, a lot of them will be immune already," he said.

"So that's semi-reassuring, but there's always that higher risk when you congregate people together that you rather want to isolate anyone that is sick."