July 16th, 2024

Medicine Hat seeing secondary spread of mumps, ‘random cases’; two cases likely at MHC

By Gillian Slade on March 10, 2017.

NEWS FILE PHOTO Medicine Hat College is seen in this undated file photo. MHC is seeking nominations for the Business Person of the Year, with a deadline for nominations of Jan. 31.

gslade@medicinehatnews.com  @MHNGillianSlade

The mumps outbreak is spreading with 15 cases now in Medicine Hat and it is no longer linked to exposure through hockey, says Alberta Health Services (AHS).

“We are definitely seeing in the Medicine Hat area secondary spread,” said Dr. Vivien Suttorp, south zone medical officer of health AHS.

On Monday Medicine Hat College received doctors’ notes from two individuals indicating that they probably had mumps, said Lesley Tuchscherer manager of occupational health and safety Medicine Hat College.

“We sent out some communication to our staff and students just to advise them and provide them some precautionary measures that they can take,” said Tuchscherer, who declined to comment on whether these two people had any link to hockey and possible exposure there.

“We leave the investigation up to Alberta Health Services,” said Tuchscherer.

There are now 37 cases of mumps confirmed in the province including 15 cases in Medicine Hat (up from 9 a week ago), six in Calgary and 16 in Edmonton.

While the first couple of cases, identified in the middle of February, were within the Medicine Hat Tigers organization the ones being identified now are not from the initial hockey exposure, said Suttorp.

“We also have random cases, just random,” said Suttorp. “Now we are identifying cases who don’t have a history of travel and they don’t have exposure to a known case. Now we have people getting it just by merely living in Medicine Hat.”

It can take 10 to 25 days for symptoms to develop but people are already contagious before they have symptoms, said Suttorp.

Up to 30 per cent of people who get mumps can have very few symptoms but are infectious, said Suttorp. Symptoms may include a headache, fatigue and a low grade fever. Not all have swollen glands, which is a hallmark feature. Some people get better on their own after about 10 days while others have gland swelling on one or both sides under the chin and corner of the jaw.

“People are already spreading disease before they know they are sick,” said Suttorp.

A measles, mumps and rubella vaccine is given to babies between 12 and 24 months of age and followed with a booster shot when the child is between the age of four and six. However no vaccine is 100 per cent effective, said Suttorp who is concerned there is the potential for this outbreak of mumps to still spread significantly.

“It is very hard to contain it,” said Suttorp.

If you develop symptoms stay home, call Health Link 811 or your family doctor, said Suttorp.

Measures to contain the spread of mumps included AHS sending letters to schools and colleges advising them of the outbreak and advising them of early symptoms to watch for.

Suttorp gives some practical advice. Wash your hands frequently and make sure your immunizations are up to date.

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