An outbreak of mumps is underway across the Lower Mainland, affecting mainly young adults.
The B.C. Centre For Disease Control says it’s the first sizable mumps outrbreak since 2008 and extends across both the Vancouver Coastal and Fraser health regions.
The centre urges the public to ensure their vaccinations are up to date.
The BCCDC says many people in their late teens or early 20s haven’t had a second dose of the MMR (measles, mumps and rubella) vaccine, which is recommended for anyone born after 1970.
The virus attacks the glands but it can be considerably worse than the classic sore throat and swollen chipmunk cheeks typically experienced by children.
Adults after puberty – particularly university students – can be hardest hit.
Men can suffer severely swollen testicles that may shrink permanently when the infection ends, causing fertility problems.
Salivary glands, ovaries, breasts and the pancreas can also be infected.
In rare cases, brain inflammation can kill.
Mumps spreads through coughing and sneezing but also direct contact such as kissing or sharing utensils or water bottles.
A third of people infected with mumps have no symptoms, another third experience cold-like symptoms, while the remaining third get tell-tale glandular inflammations.
Those most at risk are people who have never been vaccinated or who were vaccinated long ago.
Anyone who suspects they have mumps should phone a doctor or Health Link BC at 811 and avoid going to a clinic or ER where they may spread the virus to others.