27 Aug 2008

Growing mumps outbreak linked to single case in religious group opposed to vaccination

Victoria Times-Colonist, Canada
August 27, 2008

by Glenda Luymes

CHILLIWACK -- A growing outbreak of the mumps has been traced to a single original case in a Chilliwack religious group that is opposed to vaccination.

It's believed visitors from Alberta brought the mumps to Chilliwack, infecting a "community with low immunization rates," the Fraser Health Authority said yesterday.

Since February, 190 people have been infected with the virus.

It has spread from Chilliwack to Abbotsford, Langley, Surrey and Burnaby. Now it's feared the virus will spread to Vancouver.

The outbreak has led to meningitis, deafness and concerns about sterility in a number of people.

And the number of cases is expected to jump dramatically as school resumes next week.

"It hasn't slowed down and we don't expect it will with school starting up again," Fraser Health Authority medical health officer Dr. Elizabeth Brodkin said yesterday.

"Schools can be factories for viruses."

She said Fraser Health is assembling a provincewide task force -- led by experts from the B.C. Centre for Disease Control -- to combat the outbreak.

"We're telling people to make sure their immunizations are up-to-date, and to be aware that the virus is spread through sharing saliva," said Brodkin.

Citing privacy reasons, she would not name the Chilliwack religious group in which the outbreak is believed to have originated.

The doctor said that of the 190 infected people, about half had not been immunized, while a quarter had received only a single dose of the mumps vaccine. The other quarter do not have accurate immunization records.

Mumps immunization began in Canada in 1969. Anyone born before that time is assumed to be immune to the virus through exposure to "wild mumps."

Mumps is a virus and cannot be treated by antibiotics.

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