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Mumps crawl closer to territory
No confirmed cases in NWT, but spread not impossible, say health officials

Kirsten Fenn
Northern News Services
Friday, March 31, 2017

The NWT's chief public health officer is urging residents to ensure their mumps vaccinations are up to date after an outbreak of the disease has reached several parts of Canada, including Edmonton.

NNSL photograph

NWT chief public health officer Andre Corriveau says health officials in the territory are watching mumps outbreaks in other parts of Canada with a close eye.

Although no cases have been confirmed in the NWT, Dr. Andre Corriveau stressed the territory is not immune.

"It is something that we're watching very closely," he said.

"There's been cases in Ontario, Nova Scotia, Saskatchewan, Manitoba."

Corriveau put the blame on college- and university-level sports tournaments for the recent spread of the disease, as people are often in close quarters and may be drinking from the same water bottles at events.

Mumps is a virus that is spread through saliva and close contact. It causes fever, pain and swelling in the throat, and can also lead to testicular inflammation in young

men, according to Corriveau.

In some cases, there can be long-term consequences such as pancreatitis or hearing loss. There's no real treatment for mumps except to wait out the pain and remain isolated from other people for at least five days, Corriveau said.

That's why he stresses the importance of immunization.

Most people receive the mumps vaccine in two doses - the first as a baby and the second at three-years old or before they start school, Corriveau said.

"We always know there are people who are not fully immunized," Corriveau said. "These diseases are very communicable and when you travel, you never know if you might get exposed."

Residents who don't have both doses are encouraged to go to their local health centre to get vaccinated.

"It's not just to protect you from mumps, but also measles and rubella, which also can be serious infections," Corriveau said. "So we always try to advise people to make sure their immunizations are up to date."

Alberta Health Services is doing the same.

Edmonton residents born after 1970 who haven't been vaccinated were offered two free doses to help curb the spread of the disease, a news release stated Tuesday.

As of then, Alberta had confirmed 51 mumps cases in the province, with 24 in Edmonton. The outbreak had been contained to the University of Alberta before then, according to Alberta Health Services. Corriveau said it's not impossible that the disease could spread to the NWT.

"We're keeping our fingers crossed," he said. "So far, so good."

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