Confirmed cases of mumps continue to pile up, with a Toronto Public Health official saying the number has now hit 25 — and will likely continue to grow.
CBC Toronto reported on February 22 that 14 cases had been confirmed, mostly among a group of people who had visited several bars on the west side of downtown.
"The initial cases that we had, they have now exposed other people and now they're coming down with it," Dr. Vinita Dubey of Toronto Public Health said Friday.
Mumps is a viral infection that spreads by saliva or mucus contact and that often comes with pain and swelling in the neck and jaw. Toronto saw an average of five cases a year between 1997 and 2009.
Dubey described the situation in Toronto now as a "community outbreak," as opposed to an outbreak that is tied definitively to a single location.
"We can't say that all of the people live in one place or have gone to one place, they haven't even gone to one bar," she said.
In fact, Toronto Public Health has identified more than 20 bars and restaurants in the downtown west side that have been frequented by infected people.
As a result, they have sent letters to bars, restaurants and schools in the area to remind people to make sure they have had vaccinations for mumps.
Born from 1970 to 1992? You're vulnerable
The way that mumps vaccines have been administered over time has changed, creating a vulnerable cohort of people currently between 25 and 47 years of age, said Dubey.
"This group is a reflection of immunization policies of the past," she explained. "Only if you were born from 1992 on can you be pretty sure you had two doses of measles-mumps-rubella vaccines."
If you're unsure, Dubey recommends checking your vaccination records and making sure you're up to date.
If sick, stay home
Another piece of advice from Toronto Public Health?
"If you're sick, stay home. The thing about mumps is you're infectious up to seven days before the swelling of the glands," said Dubey.
Although most people get over mumps on their own, it can lead to other dangerous conditions.
"Five of our 25 cases have had orchitis — inflammation of the testicles. The more cases you get, the more likely you are to get some of the more serious consequences like hearing loss, encephalitis, and meningitis."
Dubey said she can't predict how many cases will be confirmed in the coming weeks, but said she knows "we're not near the end yet."
Toronto Public Health has a fact sheet on the signs and symptoms of mumps you can read here.