Recent increases in mumps incidence in Australia: the “forgotten” age group in the 1998 Australian Measles Control Campaign

Padmasiri E Aratchige, Peter B McIntyre, Helen E Quinn and Gwendolyn L Gilbert
Med J Aust 2008; 189 (8): 434-437.


Objectives: To describe the epidemiology of mumps and examine potential factors underlying the recent increase in the incidence of mumps in Australia.

Design, setting and participants: Analytical descriptive study, for all Australian states and territories, of mumps notifications (1994–2007); hospitalisations for mumps (1994–2005); and mumps seroprevalence in a nationally representative sample of 2787 subjects (1997).

Main outcome measures: Incidence of notifications and hospitalisations for mumps; seropositivity by birth cohort.

Results: Notified mumps cases increased from 60 in 2002 to 231 in 2005 and 512 in 2007. Between 1994 and 2005, there were 605 hospitalisations for mumps. Mumps seropositivity in all states and territories in 1997 was high (range, 87.1%–94.3%). The predominant age group affected by mumps shifted to adults over time: between 2005 and 2007, 41% of cases occurred among people aged 20–29 years. Cases were concentrated among the birth cohort of 1978 to 1982, who had higher rates of notifications and hospitalisations for mumps and a lower seropositivity rate (92% [95% CI, 89%–94%]) than other birth cohorts.

Conclusions: The birth cohort of 1978 to 1982 was too old to reliably receive a second dose of measles–mumps–rubella (MMR) vaccine in the 1998 Australian Measles Control Campaign and too young to have had mumps infection. Renewed efforts to maximise two-dose MMR coverage are important for prevention of mumps and measles in young adults.

  • Padmasiri E Aratchige1
  • Peter B McIntyre1,2
  • Helen E Quinn1,2
  • Gwendolyn L Gilbert2,3

  • 1 National Centre for Immunisation Research and Surveillance of Vaccine Preventable Diseases, The Children’s Hospital at Westmead, Sydney, NSW.
  • 2 University of Sydney, Sydney, NSW.
  • 3 Centre for Infectious Diseases and Microbiology, Institute of Clinical Pathology and Medical Research, Westmead Hospital, Sydney, NSW.



The National Centre for Immunisation Research and Surveillance of Vaccine Preventable Diseases (NCIRS) is supported by the Australian Government Department of Health and Ageing, NSW Health and The Children’s Hospital at Westmead. We wish to acknowledge the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare for providing data from the National Hospital Morbidity Database and the Communicable Diseases Network Australia for providing data from the National Notifiable Diseases Surveillance System. We also thank the staff of the 45 laboratories who provided the sera; laboratory staff at the Institute of Clinical Pathology and Medical Research (especially Ros Escott and Jo Backhouse); and the nurses at the NCIRS for their help in processing and testing the sera.

Competing interests:

None identified.

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