Mumps outbreak in the Rockhampton and Capricorn Coast areas

In Central Queensland by PHN Communications

Several confirmed cases and a small number of likely but unconfirmed cases of mumps have been identified in students in the boarding school at St Brendan’s college. The purpose of this communique is to provide you with some information about the steps being taken to minimise further spread in the boarding school, and make you aware of our advice to the general school community.

Mumps is uncommon in Australia due to effective immunisation programs, however in recent years there has been an increase in Indigenous communities and in situations such as boarding schools. This has been observed in other countries also. Whilst waning immunity may explain part of the observed increase, it is otherwise not understood. Outbreaks in settings such as boarding schools are usually controlled with vaccination programs offering a third dose of MMR vaccine within the setting. Boarding school outbreaks have generally not affected the wider school community.

How is this situation being managed?

All boys with confirmed or suspected mumps are being isolated during their infectious period to reduce further spread. As all boarding students are at some risk of acquiring this infection, all boarding students and boarding school staff are recommended a dose of measles, mumps, rubella vaccine (MMR vaccine), regardless of their vaccination history. Even with good control measures, further cases may be expected over the next 3 to 4 weeks, so the school is monitoring boarding students for further cases.

What advice has been given to the rest of the school community?

At this stage, there is no evidence of significantly increased risk for day students and teachers who have received two doses of MMR vaccine. Families of day students and all school staff have been advised to check their vaccination history and discuss vaccination with their GP if they have not had two doses of MMR vaccine. A third dose of MMR vaccine is not currently recommended for students and staff who do have two documented doses. Parents have been advised to and seek medical advice should their child develop symptoms consistent with mumps.

What clinical picture is suggestive of mumps?

Mumps is an acute viral illness characterised by fever and salivary gland inflammation however there is a wide clinical spectrum and very mild illness with upper respiratory symptoms is common – this is quite unhelpful during the respiratory virus season. Monolateral or bilateral parotitis occurs in about 70% of cases and orchitis occurs in about 20 to 30% of post-pubertal males with mumps. Please have a low index of suspicion in students and teachers associated with the school.

What is the best test for mumps?

The preferred test for mumps is mumps PCR on viral buccal swab. Please notify highly suspicious cases to the Public Health Unit by phone on 4920 6985.

Further information will be provided as necessary during the course of the response. At this stage we have no recommendation around students of St Ursula’s school.

Dr Margaret Young
A/ Director & Public Health Physician
Central Queensland Public Health Unit

For more information