Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Back to school!

Back to school

September is my New Year – more so than January. It’s the time of year when we advanced a grade, moved up another level, and started with new resolutions about doing homework or studying harder. As we advanced through the school system, we got to study new subjects and we met new people. When I became a parent, this was reinforced. My kids always seemed a bit older come the beginning of the new school year.

These days, back to school also means a concern about mumps in Canadian colleges and universities. In January of this year, there was an outbreak of mumps in the Maritimes. As the students returned home for the holidays, they took the virus with them and there have been several outbreaks across the country.

It turns out that college and university aged students and young adults are the most vulnerable to mumps these days. Those born before the 1970s were exposed to the virus itself and younger children received the double-dose MMR vaccine as part of the routine vaccinations, but that only started in the early 1990s. Since the illness is spread through saliva (sneezing, coughing, kissing, sharing cigarettes and glasses, for example), it can spread rapidly in a college or university environment. As well, you can have the virus – and spread it – for up to 7 days before you show any symptoms. There is a call now for students to get re-vaccinated to reduce their risk of contracting mumps. It’s estimated that the vaccine will prevent mumps in 90% of cases.

Why prevent the mumps? I survived them, as did many others my age, that’s true. But, like many seemingly benign childhood diseases, mumps can cause serious complications as well. They include:

-Orchitis (inflammation of the testicle(s))
-Male sterility
-Oophorotis (inflammation of the ovary/ies)
-Encephalitis (inflammation of the brain)
-Meningitis (inflammation of the meninges)
-Pancreatitis (inflammation of the pancreas)
-Hearing loss
-Miscarriage in pregnant women

Symptoms of mumps include:

-Swelling and pain in the salivary glands between the ear and the jaw
-Sore throat
-Aching joints
-Poor appetite

It’s a childhood disease that’s miserable to have as a child – and much more so to have as an adult. So, it’s time to discuss this with my kids, who are 20, 18 and just shy of 16 years old.

News for Today:
Hypertension appears to be frequently undiagnosed in children and adolescents
Minor strokes still have side-effects: researcher
Kids, susceptible adults need catch-up vaccination for mumps
Obesity predicts prostate cancer recurrence
Virgin olive oil may help keep blood clot-free

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