Winter leaves students at higher risk for mumps


Using tissue papers instead of your hands is a good way to prevent spreading illnesses. SUPPLIED

The spread of mumps, a disease that’s affecting university students in Winnipeg, could worsen after the holidays, according to the provincial government.

“Students may be attending events or returning home and, if infected, could spread mumps to people in communities throughout the province and elsewhere,” states a Dec. 9 news release from the province.

Between Sept. 1 and Dec. 8, there were 61 reported cases of mumps across Manitoba. There are typically four to five cases per year in the province.

Most of those affected were between the ages of 17 and 29 and were either students or had a connection to The University
of Winnipeg, the University of Manitoba or the Université de St. Boniface, according to the news release.

The Winnipeg Regional Health Authority hasn’t received any reports of mumps among Red River College students, a spokesperson from the WRHA wrote in an email.

The average incubation period (time before symptoms appear) of mumps is 16 to 18 days, the province’s website says.

Therefore, students who contracted the virus before or during the holidays may not show symptoms upon returning to classes.

The virus can spread from two to three days before and four to five days after symptoms appear, but the WRHA said it can spread even if you don’t have symptoms.

Key symptoms to look for include fever and swelling and pain around the salivary glands on both sides of the face.

“RRC Health Services advises anyone who exhibits symptoms of the mumps to limit contact with others and to contact their healthcare provider or Health Links prior to attending a clinic or hospital,” RRC Communications Officer Conor Lloyd wrote in an email.

Mumps outbreaks are frequent in universities, and this year didn’t pose a heightened risk, the WRHA wrote in an email. While the WRHA didn’t identify a reason for why university and college-aged people are most affected, other than people not being vaccinated, it said it’s common for young people to disregard prevention recommendations due to an “immortality complex.”

Kissing, not covering sneezes, and sharing utensils, drinks and cigarettes are a few behaviors that increase the risk of trans- mission, the WRHA said.

Unlike flu shot clinics, which RRC offered for free on campus in November, there is no clinic for the mumps vaccine.

“There is no scientific evidence that (a campus clinic) would be helpful to reduce or control the outbreak,” the WRHA wrote in an email.

Manitoba’s routine immunization schedule offers vaccination against mumps. RRC requires applicants for healthcare provider courses, including nursing, to show proof of vaccination.