Can’t get away from the mumps

I wrote several posts last year on the mumps outbreak here in Iowa. We didn’t get hit with mumps this year, but there has been an ongoing outbreak in Canada, primarily in Nova Scotia. So how do I fit into this?

Most recently, mumps has been diagnosed in Toronto:

Canada’s ongoing mumps outbreak has hit the country’s biggest city. And Toronto’s public health officials expect the current case count of three infections to climb before the outbreak subsides.

“I think we may see more cases,” Dr. Barbara Yaffe, director of communicable disease control for Toronto Public Health, said in an interview Tuesday.

That’s because one of the infected young adults spent a number of hours last Thursday night at a crowded night spot in the city’s Kensington Market neighbourhood known as the Supermarket Restaurant and Bar.

“We know it’s a very popular place. There were probably around 300 people there. And so they may have been exposed to mumps,” said Yaffe.

Like Iowa’s outbreak, the Canadian mumps epidemic has also revolved around college students:

Yaffe said two of the three Toronto cases are students who attend university in Halifax who came home at the end of the school year. The third was a person exposed to one of the two cases.

University aged young adults make up the majority of the cases. They appear to be at greatest risk because they would have only received one dose of measles, mumps and rubella vaccine in childhood. While one dose protected a great number of people, in some people it wasn’t sufficient to prevent infection; since the mid-1990s two doses have been given.

So, again, why Toronto, and why does that matter to me? I’m heading there next week for the American Society for Microbiology’s General Meeting. However, I’m not too worried–the bar scene isn’t my thing, and I certainly won’t be swapping spit. Now, to just figure out a way to steer clear from those pesky college students who will be populating the meeting…

13 Replies to “Can’t get away from the mumps”

  1. Im just now getting over a vicious case of EBV– and when I first got sick my lymph nodes/tonsils/neck were swollen as hell. I was going to be really pissed if I somehow got mumps (I only got one dose of MMR, too).

    Not that I had a lot of fun with EBV…

  2. Was America also hit by the MMR controversy that washed over Britain? Because as I understand it, rates of all three MMR-covered diseases are going up here because panicked parents are not vaccinating their kids for fear of turning them autistic, based largely on the ramblings of one man and the scandal-courting of the British press.

  3. Toronto? You’ll be fine. But I’m at Acadia University (about an hour away from Halifax), and I’m a tad nervous. Last I heard it was over 225 cases and counting out here!

  4. Don’t forget that you’re an American, the disease is Canadian, and it will affect you @ 12.5% less, at current exchange rates 🙂

  5. I seem to recall that during the outbreak in Iowa, there was some controversy about whether all the diagnosed cases of mumps were, in fact, mumps. Questions were raised about the accuracy of the diagnostic tests, and there was suspicion that some (though not all) of the supposed mumps cases were actually something else. Whatever happened with that?

  6. How is mumps transmitted? For example, are 300 people in a bar really at risk, like it’s air born? Or is it the eight people who were touched? Or is it that we have no idea?

    Unfortunately, the telephone sanitizers were unavailable, because they were sent on the ‘B’ Ark when the virus hit…

  7. Mumps needs pretty close contact; it’s not as infectious as, say, measles. In a bar they’re at risk if they’re sharing drinks with someone who’s infected, or making out with them. I don’t know if it’s ever been shown to be transmitted via sweat, but certainly (depending on the bar) there could be a lot of close contact between a lot of sweaty, hard-breathing people.

    Dave, as far as I know, there weren’t any problems with the diagnostics, or at least no more than is typical (every test will have an error rate, of course). Do you have a reference for that? Maybe I’m just forgetting…

  8. Tara, it may have been a false alarm. I just have a memory that there were inconsistent results of some diagnostic tests, and I think a suspicion that some of the supposed mumps cases might have been parainfluenza or some other infection.

  9. I am also interested in these false alarms. I had not heard of that element. Perhaps of no interest to you is that I attribute my debut in the science blogosphere to the mumps.

    Because I was quarantined, I made several posts about the mumps and public health and even penned some bad poetry

    It turned out that my public health department-recommended vacation was for a salivary stone.

  10. Nova Scotia mumps outbreak hits 300
    Canadian Press, May 25, 2007

    Halifax — The number of mumps cases in Nova Scotia has climbed to 302 and will likely continue to grow, health officials said Friday.
    Officials said the increase of 30 cases over the past week is part of a normal outbreak cycle.
    The Public Health Agency of Canada is also reporting 45 cases in New Brunswick, two in Prince Edward Island and one in Alberta.
    More than 60 per cent of patients are between 17 and 24.
    Since the mid-1990s, children have been given two shots to prevent the mumps, measles and rubella. But young adults between 17 and 24 are most at risk because their age group never got that second booster shot.

    Although the focus in Nova Scotia has been on the mumps, Dr. Strang said it’s important to realize that the vaccine also guards against measles and rubella.
    “It’s not just about mumps. We have some recent measles activity around the world — there’s an outbreak in Japan and there’s been some other sporadic cases in the United States.”
    Dr. Strang said he’s only aware of a couple of reported cases of the measles in Canada — none in Nova Scotia.

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