AMHERST – Students at Amherst Regional High School are being advised they may have been exposed to mumps.
In a letter from the area’s chief medical officer of health Dr. Ryan Sommers, students were told Public Health investigates many communicable diseases to prevent spread and protect the health of the public.
“We gave determined that you may have been exposed to mumps in the classroom setting,” Sommers said in the letter dated April 4.
According to Public Health’s records, the last possible day anyone may have been exposed to mumps would have been March 29.
“This means anyone exposed could develop the illness between April 5 and April 23,” he said in the letter.
Sommers said there was only one case at Amherst Regional High School, but there has been an increased number of mumps cases in the Halifax area as well as in the Antigonish areas.
“Right now, we’re trying to figure out if this case is connected to the larger cluster of cases,” he said. “Nothing is for sure that it’s connected and it’s common to get mumps a couple of times a year and from time to time we do see an increased number of cases.”
Mumps is virus and is usually spread when an infected person coughs or sneezes, or by sharing food or drinks. Symptoms may include swelling and pain in the jaw (one of both cheeks may look swollen), fever, headache, earache, tiredness, aching muscles and joints, sore throat and pain when swallowing or opening the mount, poor appetite and vomiting.
It usually takes two to three weeks for symptoms to appear after being exposed.
For more serious symptoms, such as a stiff neck or severe headache, painful testicles, or severe belly pain, a doctor must be consulted immediately.
Sommers asks anyone experiencing symptoms to contact Public Health or their family doctor, even if they’ve been vaccinated. Mumps can be diagnosed by a doctor’s exam and through lab testing.
While the public is advised when mumps is present, he said it’s not something that should cause too much concern since most are protected by vaccination – although the mumps can still happen despite vaccination, but it’s not as bad.
“We try to get the message out there for people to be aware of infectious diseases that might be out there in the community,” he said. “The big thing is when people do get it, they should avoid contact with others for about five days.”
He said the best protection against mumps is vaccination. In Canada, every person should have received two shots of the measles-mumps-rubella vaccine following their first birthday. If unsure whether they received a vaccination or don’t know their vaccination history, they should contact their family doctor to ensure their vaccinations are up to date.
There is no cost for a measles-mumps-rubella vaccination.
For further information, contact Public Health at 902-667-3319 and ask to speak to a public health nurse in the communicable disease program.