The Sea to Sky's medical health officer is urging young Whistlerites to get vaccinated for mumps after 13 cases of the viral infection have been confirmed in the community so far this year.
A year after a mumps outbreak hit the resort, Whistler is experiencing another "cluster," explained Dr. Mark Lysyshyn.
"Basically after a quiet period, we're starting to see cases again," he added.
A contagious viral infection that can cause fever and swelling of the salivary glands in the face, mumps is especially risky for the younger demographic who are more susceptible due to Canada's previous immunization schedule.
"Now everybody gets two doses of the mumps vaccine, but at a certain point in time, people were only getting one," Lysyshyn said. Anyone born between 1970 and 1996 has likely only received one vaccine, and are urged to get the second dose.
Because of Whistler's young population — the median age is 32, compared to 42 B.C.-wide — and its popularity with international visitors — it is especially susceptible to mumps.
But there's also another factor that could put young Whistlerites at greater risk: smooching.
"It's mostly spread between people through saliva, so maybe this is another factor having to do with Whistler as well," Lysyshyn said.
Last spring Whistler experienced a rash of mumps cases, and several vaccine clinics were added across the Sea to Sky. Currently, there are no plans to set up additional clinics in the corridor, but Lysyshyn said that could change if the situation worsens. Mumps vaccines are available at the Whistler Health Care Centre, or at your local physician or pharmacist. If you suspect you have mumps, notify your doctor before a visit in order to protect staff from contracting the virus. It is also recommended that you stay home from work to avoid spreading the infection.
Not everyone infected with mumps will have salivary gland swelling. Other complications can occur, including swelling of the testes in adult males and swelling of the ovaries in adult females, although sterility is a rare outcome. Rare complications include inflammation of the brain; inflammation of the tissue covering the brain and spine; and deafness.
For more information, go to www.immunizebc.ca or call HealthLink BC at 811.