Technology & Science

Nova Scotia to immunize students as mumps cases grow

Nova Scotia health officials and university presidents agreed Friday that a mumps immunization plan is needed after an outbreak of the disease that is now affecting Newfoundland and Labrador.

Nova Scotia health officials and university presidentsagreed Friday that a mumps immunization plan is neededas new cases of the disease continue to be reported.

Talks between doctors and representatives of the Council of Nova Scotia University Presidents come as the number of mumps cases in the province continues to rise.

Health officials report 24 new cases this week, bringing the Nova Scotia total to 350 since the outbreak began in February.

"We presented the issue and our recommendation of what we need to do, including immunization, and have reached agreement from the university presidents to really participate in a collaborative process," medical officer Dr. Robert Strang said Friday.

Universities "know how to communicate with their students best, so we need to work very closely with them and they agreed to move forward together."

Officials will now go to work on the specifics of a plan to be presented to government.

Young people between the ages of 17 and 24 are at greatest risk of contracting the disease, since many only received one of the two recommended immunization shots.

Most people over 40 are naturally immune to the disease, and those between 12 and 17 have likely received a second shot because a booster shot was introduced in 1996-97.

However, in Nova Scotia, the disease has been found in infants as well as seniors.

Strang said the number of cases will continue over the next few months— possibly into the fall— but that the increase is part of the disease's cycle.

"We'd like to see it decreasing as soon as possible but it's a highly infectious disease, so it is going to continue."

Spread among students

The outbreak has spread across the country as university-aged students returned to their home provinces for the summer.

Cases have been reported in seven other provinces so far, with Newfoundland and Labrador confirmingits first case this week. The province's Western Health authority said the case seems to be linked to the outbreak in Nova Scotia and they are taking precautions to prevent further spread.

When the Canadian Public Health Authority releasedits case count early in the week, the agencyreported:

  • Seventy-twocases in New Brunswick.
  • Twoin Ontario.
  • Twocases each in Prince Edward Island, Alberta, Manitoba and British Columbia.

Since then, Newfoundland and Labrador has confirmed its first case.

The incubation period for the disease is 14-25 days, and people with symptoms are advised to isolate themselves for nine days.

Mumps can be spread through coughing, sneezing and the exchange of saliva, including kissing or sharing drinks.

Symptoms include aches, pains, fever, loss of appetite and, in extreme cases, the disease can lead to meningitis, inflammation of the testicles or ovaries and hearing loss.