Mumps on the rise, Northwestern Health Unit warns

Manager of infectious diseases Donna Stanley says the unit typically hears of one or two mumps cases each year; this year, that number is more than 20 so far.

More than 20 cases reported so far

The Northwestern Health Unit typically only records a couple of cases of mumps per year. This year, the number has increased sharply. (iStock)

The Northwestern Health Unit is urging families to get their immunizations up to date, due to multiple reports of mumps in their region — which extends from Upsala, Ont., to the Manitoba border. 

The unit typically hears of one or two mumps cases each year, but this year, that number is more than 20 so far, said Donna Stanley, the health unit's manager of infectious diseases. 

"Sometimes children in JK [and] SK — their parents sometimes choose to wait a bit before they get their immunizations, and we're just encouraging people to understand the risk picture when they're making that decision," Stanley said.

Adults between the ages of 25 and 47 should seek out a second lifetime dose of the vaccine, she added, because those in that age group would only have ever received one.

People should also wash their hands regularly, avoid sharing water bottles, and cover their hands with their sleeves when coughing to avoid exposure to viruses, Stanley added.

Mumps is a viral illness that causes swollen, painful cheeks and neck, fever, headache, muscle aches, weakness and loss of appetite.

Rare but serious complications of the disease include inflamed ovaries or testicles, hearing loss, and meningitis. 

Those who may be at a higher risk of getting mumps include those who have not been vaccinated adequately, school aged children, those who participate in or organize youth team sports, and those born from 1970 to 1992 who likely only have one dose of the vaccine, according to a health unit news release. 

The health unit advises people who are ill to stay home from work or school and avoid public places, especially those who currently have a fever or who have swollen, painful cheeks and neck, particularly if there has been recent contact with people with mumps. 

The Thunder Bay District Health Unit is not reporting an increase in mumps cases in the Thunder Bay region.