Mumps outbreak prompts warning to Manitoba parents

The province is warning parents and guardians to watch out for signs of mumps now that the outbreak has spread throughout Manitoba, including to preschools and schools.

176 confirmed cases of mumps in province; normally Manitoba sees 4-5 cases

Manitoba is warning parents to watch out for signs of the mumps as the disease spreads across the province. (Shutterstock)

The province is warning parents and guardians to watch out for signs of mumps now that the outbreak has spread throughout Manitoba, including to preschools and schools.

As of Feb. 24, there were 176 confirmed mumps cases in Manitoba since Sept. 1, health officials said. The province typically sees four to eight cases of the disease a year.

"This is substantially higher," said Manitoba medical officer of health Dr. Richard Rusk. "It's a vaccine-preventable disease. We shouldn't be seeing high numbers."

So far, most cases have been in university students age 18 to 29 who live in Winnipeg.

"The majority of mumps cases were months ago, mainly in athletics. Information was shared widely with students on prevention and treatment," said John Danakas, a spokesperson for the University of Manitoba.

The school's men's football team was especially hard hit by mumps.

The outbreak began in sports teams, then spread to universities and then students took it home to their families, Rusk said. 

NHL hockey players are affected as well. The visiting Minnesota Wild has two players and an assistant coach off sick with the highly contagious disease.

As a result, some Winnipeg Jets players might get vaccinated.

"I think we're going to have mumps shots available to us after the game," Jets forward Mathieu Perreault said in a video on the Jets Twitter account.

It's not uncommon for mumps outbreaks to start among sports teams when players share water bottles and food, since the disease spreads through saliva. 

The MMR (measles, mumps, rubella) vaccine protects against mumps but recently vaccination rates have fallen, in part due to an anti-vaccination trend based on a discredited belief that vaccination causes autism.

The lower vaccination rates have contributed to weaker herd immunity, putting people with compromised immune systems at risk, provincial officials said.

Mumps starts with cold-like symptoms, developing into swollen and tender glands at the jaw line or on both sides of the face, along with fever, headache and body aches, provincial officials said.

The disease is contagious two or three days before symptoms show up and those infected continue to be contagious for four or five days after symptoms appear.

It's spread through direct contact with saliva, including through coughs, kissing, sneezes and sharing drinks. Washing hands, avoiding sharing drinks, covering sneezes and coughs and staying home when sick can help prevent the spread.

In adults and children past puberty, mumps sometimes causes painful inflammation in the testicles or ovaries, provincial officials said. Complications can include deafness, sterility, encephalitis and meningitis. 

Rusk said there's been a few cases of sterility in the province. 

Mumps vaccination information, from the province:

  • People born between 1970 and 1984 who have not received a vaccine containing measles or mumps or have not had natural measles or mumps infection are eligible for one dose of the MMR vaccine.
  • Those born in or after 1985 are eligible for two doses of the MMR vaccine.
  • All children 12 months old or older are eligible to receive two doses — they are administered at 12 months and between four and six years.
  • Students without immunity who were born before 1970 are eligible for one dose, while students born in 1970 or later are eligible for two doses of the MMR vaccine.

For questions related to mumps or the vaccine, Manitobans can contact Health Links at 204-788-8200 or 1-888-315-9257 (toll free).

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About the Author

Laura Glowacki is a reporter based in Ottawa. Previously, she worked as a reporter in Winnipeg and as an associate producer for CBC's Metro Morning in Toronto. Find her on Twitter @glowackiCBC and reach her by email at

with files from Radio Canada's Samuel Rancourt and The Associated Press