Outbreak of Mumps in Northwest WA

Words By: Darcie Boelen

Over 30 children in Western Australia have been diagnosed with mumps after an outbreak in the North West part of the state.

The first sign of the virus was in the Kimberley and it has since spread to a number of boarding school students in the Perth and Esperance areas.

In an interview, a Health Department spokesperson stated that the infected children are now isolated and the virus could be contained. She confirmed that there are 34 cases of mumps linked to this particular outbreak, “primarily among Aboriginal teenagers and young adults from the Kimberley region”.

The virus was transferred to other regions when the children returned to school after holidays.

According to a report in the Medical Journal of Australia, all children in WA born after 1981 should have, in theory, received at least one dose of mumps vaccine, and two doses after 1994.

There was a previous outbreak of mumps in the Kimberley region in 2007, which raised questions about the effectiveness of the mumps vaccine for Aboriginal people. However, in that case, only 52% of affected patients had received two doses of the vaccine.

Michael Gannon, President of the WA branch of the Australian Medical Association, reminded all Western Australians that we all have a responsibility to keep the community safe.

“Don’t rely on some of the misinformation on the internet to make a judgement,” Gannon said. “Talk to your local GP instead […] the right of children to be healthy should always trump a parent’s right to make the wrong decision.”

There was a higher percentage of measles cases in WA in 2014 including three children whose parents refused to vaccine their children.

Mumps has been previously well controlled in the state because of the high rate of vaccination, however without proper vaccination the disease is highly contagious and can spread as easily as the common cold. Symptoms occur over two weeks after infection.

Symptoms include swelling of the patortid glands (below the ears), which causes pain, tenderness and difficulty swallowing; a general feeling of illness; a high temperature and discomfort when chewing.

While there is pain relief medication available for mumps patients, there is no anti-viral medication for mumps once it has been contracted, and the body must fight off the infection alone.

Mumps is a notifiable disease, which means the government monitors cases to maintain a high standard of public health safety. If you suspect that either you or your child has mumps, it is very important you go see a doctor.

For more information about the symptoms and treatment of mumps, go to the Health Direct website. You can also talk to a health professional on their 24 hour healthline on 1800 022 222.