You may have heard about the mumps outbreak in eastern Canada. Since the beginning of the year over 200 students have been infected. Recently, the outbreak has spread to Toronto.
With a population over 2 million and so much international travel coming in and out of the city should you be worried?
Mumps are spread via saliva. But that doesn’t mean you have to kiss someone to contract it. Anything from the sharing of a drink or food, to coughing and sneezing can pass the illness along.
The good news is, that if you had mumps as a child (very common prior to the 1960’s) you are already immune.
If you don’t recall having mumps as a child and were born in the US before 1957 you may be at risk if you come into contact with the illness. If you’re concerned or planning to travel to an infected area, visit your health care provider and ask them about the vaccine. There’s no harm in getting the vaccine if you’re already immune.
Mumps symptoms include swelling and pain below your cheeks (in the salivary glands), fever, headaches, fatigue, muscle aches and a general loss of appetite.
Generally, mumps is not a severe illness, though it does affect older adults more severely than children. There can also be serious complications including:
— meningitis — hearing loss — inflammation of the brain — swelling of the pancreas — swelling of the testicles — inflammation of the ovaries
And while the vaccine has dramatically decreased the number of regular cases every year, outbreaks are not uncommon. Canada has seen three outbreaks since 2000, and last year the Midwestern states suffered one of the largest outbreaks in over 20 years. The UK also suffers from regular outbreaks.
While your chances of contracting the illness are low — to avoid coming into contact with the illness, your best bet is to avoid travel to an infected area. If you have a child or grandchild currently in college or university and are unsure whether their school is affected or not, avoid sharing food or drinks with them, and steer clear if they are sneezing or coughing.