Sunday, December 2, 2007

My Mumps, My Mumps, My Lovely Little Mumps...Check It Out...

Reported as of yesterday, Saturday 12/01/07, there has been an outbreak of nearly 100 cases of mumps in Alberta, Canada. Within the Chinook Health Region, a majority of the 38 confirmed and 21 suspected cases of mumps have been linked to the local colleges: namely University of Lethbridge and Lethbridge College. Within the Calgary area, approximately 57 mumps cases have been confirmed this year so far (January 2007 to October 2007), 43 of which were confirmed in the month of October. Even more intriguing is that six of these recent cases have been members of the University of Calgary's hockey team, thus explaining the public health officials' disease-prevention advice to local hockey-players to avoid sharing mouthgards and water-bottles.

Recall that mumps can cause fever, headache, and swollen glands around the jaw, but can sometimes (unfortunately) lead to more serious complications such as sterility, meningitis, and deafness. Thus, public health officials are working hard to put a stop to the spread of this viral infection.

Hypotheses to why such an outbreak occurred? Well, seing as how many of the cases are happening to college-aged students (age range typically 17-26) and how people in this age range received only one dose of mumps vaccine when they were children, it is thought that the immunity provided by the vaccine may have worn off. Thus, to help control the outbreak and prevent similar future outbreaks, the Canadian province is offering free mumps immunizations in two phases: first are the post-secondary students, and then everyone in the high risk 17-26 age group.

Becca Briggs

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