Public urged to up­date vac­cines af­ter out­breaks

The Hamilton Spectator - - CANADA & WORLD - DIANA ME­HTA

TORONTO — Public health of­fi­cials and in­fec­tious dis­ease ex­perts are urg­ing Cana­di­ans to check that their vac­ci­na­tions are up-to­date as clus­ters of mumps are in­ves­ti­gated in On­tario and Al­berta, and measles cases are probed in Nova Sco­tia.

The vi­ral in­fec­tions are both cov­ered by the measles-mumps-rubella (MMR) or measles­mumps-rubella-vari­cella (MMRV) vac­cines. But ex­perts say peo­ple be­tween the ages of 18 and 35 need to en­sure they’ve had two doses of the shots to bol­ster their im­mu­nity.

“Mumps and measles are very con­ta­gious ill­nesses ... at the mo­ment we have this par­tic­u­lar is­sue with peo­ple who’ve only had one dose of vac­cine. For this age group, it’s a good time to check and make sure they’ve had two doses,” said Dr. Al­li­son McGeer, direc­tor of in­fec­tion con­trol at Toronto’s Mount Sinai Hos­pi­tal.

McGeer ex­plained that when the mumps and measles vac­cine was in­tro­duced, only one dose was ad­min­is­tered but it later be­came ap­par­ent that two doses were needed for it to be ef­fec­tive over the long term.

McGeer said there was noth­ing overly wor­ri­some about the re­cent mumps and measles cases but noted that they served as a re­minder of the im­por­tance of im­mu­niza­tion ef­forts.

“The f act that you can still get clus­ters of cases is a marker for just how im­por­tant hav­ing those vac­ci­na­tion pro­grams is. If they didn’t hap­pen then ev­ery­body got sick.”

In Toronto, public health of­fi­cials said Fri­day that there were 17 con­firmed cases of mumps in the city, all in­volv­ing peo­ple be­tween 18 and 35 years of age who had fre­quented west-end bars.

A Toronto Public Health spokes­woman said 60 per cent of those cases were not im­mu­nized or un­der-im­mu­nized. Lenore Brom­ley noted, how­ever, that the risk to the gen­eral public was low.

In Al­berta, of­fi­cials said there were up to four po­ten­tial cases of mumps in Ed­mon­ton, which typ­i­cally sees zero to two cases each year. And a hockey team based in Medicine Hat, Alta. had seven play­ers and a coach with mumps, Al­berta Health Ser­vices said.

The mumps virus is found in saliva and res­pi­ra­tory droplets, and is spread from per­son to per­son through cough­ing, sneez­ing, and com­ing into con­tact with a per­son’s saliva by shar­ing drinks or uten­sils, or by kiss­ing.

Dr. Sarah Wil­son, a med­i­cal epi­demi­ol­o­gist with Public Health On­tario, said in­di­vid­u­als in the age range cur­rently more sus­cep­ti­ble to mumps may also be more at risk be­cause of their be­hav­iour traits.

That group of young adults is more likely to en­gage in be­hav­iours and ac­tiv­i­ties in which mumps spreads eas­ily, like play­ing on sports teams where water bot­tles might be shared, liv­ing in dor­mi­to­ries in close con­di­tions and shar­ing drinks and food in bars, she said.

“These sit­u­a­tions pro­vide re­ally rich op­por­tu­ni­ties for the mumps virus, if it’s in­tro­duced, to spread eas­ily in a pop­u­la­tion that might not be up-to-date with re­spect to mumps vac­cine,” said Wil­son.

Wil­son ex­plained that even those who get two doses of the vac­cine can still some­times end up with mumps — as seen in 40 per cent of the Toronto cases — as the vac­cine is con­sid­ered about 88 per cent ef­fec­tive at that point.

CHRIS SO, TORONTO STAR FILE PHOTO

Dr. Al­li­son McGeer, direc­tor of in­fec­tion con­trol at Toronto’s Mount Sinai Hos­pi­tal, says mumps and measles are very con­ta­gious ill­nesses.

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