News Local

How do I know if I have mumps? Health authority warns of mumps outbreak

Stephanie Ip

Penguins superstar Sidney Crosby came down with a case of the mumps in December 2014. (YouTube)

Penguins superstar Sidney Crosby came down with a case of the mumps in December 2014. (YouTube)

If you're between the ages of 18 to 33, live in a dorm or with roommates, or enjoy making out — be on the lookout for mumps.

The Vancouver Coastal Health authority is warning of a possible mumps outbreak, after recording 13 new cases in the VCH region in the last month. All recently reported cases were in individuals between the ages of 18 and 33, with the average age of 25.

To date, there have been 80 cases since February of this year, compared to 86 for all of 2016. Previously, VCH recorded an average of 32 cases a year between 2011 and 2015.

Earlier this year, five Vancouver Canucks players were sidelined after they were found to have or showed signs of mumps.

What are the signs of mumps?

Possible signs of the viral illness include fever and swollen salivary glands (under the jaw and ears, and under the tongue), though not everyone with mumps will experience swelling. Complications could result in swollen testicles or ovaries and serious cases include inflammation of the brain (meningitis) and deafness.

Who is at risk?

Young adults who live in dorms or close quarters, or who interact frequently with others of the same age are most at risk.

How does it spread?

Mumps is spread through saliva or mucus from the mouth, nose or throat of an infected person. Respiratory droplets containing the virus could spread through a cough or sneeze, even if an individual is two metres away from someone with mumps.

Sharing food, drinks or cigarettes, as well as kissing someone with mumps can be contagious.

What should I do if I think if I have mumps?

Those who suspect they may have mumps should stay home from work and other outings and call a doctor's office before visiting in person to prevent spreading the virus to other patients, office staff and the public.

How do I protect myself from mumps?

Limited interaction with infected individuals can help cut down on the possibility of mumps but the most effective way is to ensure you are vaccinated. The vaccine is administered as MMR (Measles, Mumps, Rubella).

If you were born after Jan. 1, 1970, you need two doses of mumps-containing vaccine.

If you were born between Jan. 1 1957 and Dec. 31, 1969, you need one dose of mumps-containing vaccine.

If you were born before 1957 or have had mumps infection, you are considered protected.

In 1996, a second dose of MMR was added to B.C.'s routine vaccination schedule, which means those born between 1970 and 1995 may have only received the first of two recommended vaccinations.

The MMR vaccine is free at public health units, pharmacies, family doctors and walk-in clinics.