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UPDATE: Mumps case suspected at École St. Gerard

UPDATE: Medical Officer of Health for the North Zone Dr. Albert de Villiers says Alberta Health Services is hesitant to call this the first case of mumps in northern Alberta as they’re still waiting for official lab confirmation. He says people concerned about the suspected case should know first and foremost that the disease is preventable.

“If you know of somebody that you think might have mumps or if your kids have got mumps maybe, or if you think you might have it yourself, please stay home,” he urges. “Try to connect with your physician and warn them you’re coming so that they can make sure they take the necessary precautions when you actually get there.”

De Villiers explains that people born before 1970 shouldn’t have to worry about getting the vaccine, because it didn’t exist back then and it’s assumed most people have been exposed. Adults born after that time should have gotten at least one MMR vaccine as a child and don’t need a booster. It’s recommended students in post-secondary make sure they have gotten two doses.

If the mumps case in Grande Prairie is officially confirmed by AHS, it will be posted to a new website set up to address the outbreak in southern Alberta. People can find more information here.

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A case of the mumps has officially been confirmed in Grande Prairie. An elementary-aged kid at École St. Gerard was diagnosed with the disease this week. Grande Prairie and District Catholic Schools Superintendent Karl Germann says a letter went home to parents Wednesday.

“There probably will be more cases of the mumps in the area because there is one confirmed case. We’re just going to do the regular maintenance and cleaning of the school, plus we’re going to do an enhanced cleaning; we’ve done that already just to make sure that it’s safe for kids and to cut down on any of the virus that might be out there.”

An enhanced cleaning involves chemicals not normally used in a deep clean on a building.

Mumps is a contagious viral infection that can often cause swelling and pain in the glands of the jaw and cheek area. Alberta Health Services says the infection usually goes away on its own in about 10 days, but it can take 14 to 25 days to show symptoms once infected.

In some cases it can cause serious complications that affect the brain, the testicles, the ovaries, or the pancreas. There are vaccines available in the province for free of charge. Germann encourages local families to vaccinate their children to limit the spread of the virus.

“It’s never too late to get vaccinated. There’s a couple of doses that are done for mumps and the first dose is given at age one and the second one’s at age four. It’s always good to have your kids vaccinated or to check to make sure that your kids are up on their vaccinations.”

The mumps are spread when someone with the infection coughs or sneezes near you or shares food or drinks with you. Some people with mumps won’t have gland swelling and instead may feel like they have a bad cold or the flu.

21 other cases have been confirmed in the province. It started with nine confirmed cases in Medicine Hat, all linked to the Medicine Hat Tigers hockey team.

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