Cases of mumps in Edmonton, southern Alberta, and other parts of Canada in the past several months are a reminder that vaccine preventable infections including mumps, are still a risk to health.
Nine cases of mumps have now been confirmed at the University of Alberta’s north campus.
What is mumps?
Mumps is a contagious viral infection with symptoms that can include swollen, painful cheeks and neck. Some people with mumps won't have gland swelling. Mumps is spread when an infected person coughs or sneezes near you or shares food or drinks.
What are the symptoms?
- Swelling and pain in the jaw; one or both cheeks may look swollen
- Headache, earache, sore throat, and pain when you swallow or open your mouth
- Tiredness, with aching in the muscles and joints
- Poor appetite and vomiting
Mumps usually goes away on its own in about 10 days. In some cases, it can cause complications that affect the brain (meningitis), the testicles (orchitis), the ovaries (oophoritis), or the pancreas (pancreatitis). These complications can have life-long effects.
How is it spread?
People infected with mumps are contagious for up to 7 days before, and for 9 days after, symptoms appear. You are most likely to spread the virus 1 to 2 days before and up to 5 days after symptoms start.
How to protect yourself from mumps
Mumps can be prevented through immunization (vaccine).
There are two vaccines that are safe and effective: the MMR (measles, mumps and rubella) vaccine and the MMRV (measles, mumps, rubella and varicella [chickenpox]) vaccine. Most people born in 1970 and after get these vaccines as part of their routine childhood immunizations—one at 12 months and a second between four and six years of age.
- Check your own immunization records and tell your family and friends to check theirs.
- Adults (18 years of age or older) born in 1970 or later who ARE post-secondary students should have two doses of mumps-containing vaccine.
- Adults (18 years of age or older) born in 1970 or later who are NOT post-secondary students should have at least one dose of mumps-containing vaccine.
- All health-care workers, regardless of when they were born, should have two doses of mumps-containing vaccine.
- Those born before 1970 are assumed to be immune due to the fact that mumps was extremely common prior to vaccine being available.
- Practice good hand hygiene — wash hands often with soap and water, or use alcohol hand rub.
- Avoid sharing items that could be contaminated with saliva, such as water bottles, drinking glasses, utensils, etc.
- Cover coughs or sneezes with a tissue or a forearm, not your hand.
What to do if you show symptoms of mumps
If you become ill with mumps symptoms, stay out of classes, sports, work, and public places until 5 to 9 days after the salivary glands first start to swell. If you think that you have mumps, be sure to call ahead and explain the symptoms before you go to a doctor’s office.