Eight more people have been diagnosed with mumps in the last 10 days as the Manitoba outbreak continues to spread.
As of March 2, there have been 184 confirmed cases of mumps since Sept. 1, health officials said, the highest number of cases in two decades. There are typically four to eight cases a year in the province.
"We know that this is a disease that kind of rambles on, it will continue for another few months potentially. We have seen the rate, eight in a week, is not as much as in previous weeks," said Manitoba medical officer of health Dr. Richard Rusk. "So we hope that it's going to start to slow down but we will have to watch that."
Initially, the majority of cases were in university students age 18 to 29 and living in Winnipeg or involved in sports. But health officials said mumps cases are now being seen in all ages and throughout Manitoba.
Last week, the province sent a letter to schools and daycares warning the outbreak had spread to preschool and school-aged populations.
Rusk said there were 10 confirmed cases in children aged seven and under.
The virus is found in saliva and respiratory droplets. It is spread through coughing, sneezing, sharing drinks or utensils, or kissing.
Symptoms include fever, swollen cheeks, neck pain, headache, loss of appetite and muscle aches and pains.
Complications can include deafness, encephalitis, meningitis and sterility. Rusk said, while very rare, there have been a handful of cases in Manitoba resulting in sterility and deafness during the latest outbreak.
The MMR (measles, mumps, rubella) vaccine protects against mumps but vaccination rates have fallen. The lower vaccination rates have contributed to weaker herd immunity, putting people with compromised immune systems at risk, provincial officials said.
The mumps vaccine is 62 to 91 per cent effective with a first dose and 76 to 95 per cent effective after two doses, Health Canada says.
Clusters of mumps have also emerged in Toronto and Alberta. While Saskatchewan didn't have any cases reported on Thursday, health officials are preparing for it to spread.
To reduce the spread of mumps, people should wash their hands often with soap, avoid sharing drinks or utensils, cover coughs and sneezes and stay home when feeling sick.
Immunization against mumps is available free as part of Manitoba's routine immunization schedule.
For questions related to mumps or the vaccine, Manitobans can contact Health Links at 204-788-8200 or 1-888-315-9257 (toll free).