A prolonged mumps outbreak among highly vaccinated Aboriginal people in the Kimberley region of Western Australia

Med J Aust 2009; 191 (7): 398-401.


Objective: To describe a prolonged outbreak of mumps in the Kimberley region of Western Australia in 2007–2008.

Design: Descriptive analysis of all mumps cases notified to the WA Notifiable Infectious Diseases Database for the period 1 July 2007 to 30 June 2008.

Main outcome measures: Notified cases of mumps by patients’ place of residence, age, Indigenous or non-Indigenous ethnicity, vaccination status and method of diagnosis.

Results: 84% (153/183) of mumps notifications in WA over the study period occurred in the Kimberley region or were directly linked to Kimberley cases. Median age of patients was 18 years (range, 2–63 years), and 54% of patients were aged less than 20 years. Almost all (92%) were Australian Aboriginal people; 67% (102/153) had received at least one dose of mumps vaccine, and 52% had received two doses. The highest notification rate (1816 cases per 100 000 population) was in the Aboriginal 15–19-years age group, and 92% of these patients had received at least one dose of mumps vaccine. Almost all outbreak cases (94%) were laboratory confirmed. Genotyping was performed on 20 mumps virus isolates: all were genotype J.

Conclusion: A prolonged outbreak of mumps occurred in a well defined, highly vaccinated, predominantly young Aboriginal population in the remote Kimberley region of WA. This outbreak raises questions about the effectiveness and scheduling of the current vaccine (which is genotype A-derived), especially for Aboriginal people. Surveillance of circulating mumps virus genotypes and neutralisation studies will help in evaluating the protection provided by the current vaccine against genotypically different strains.

  • Revle D Bangor-Jones1
  • Gary K Dowse1
  • Carolien M Giele1
  • Paul G van Buynder1
  • Meredith M Hodge2
  • Mary M Whitty3

  • 1 Communicable Disease Control Directorate, WA Department of Health, Perth, WA.
  • 2 PathWest Laboratory Medicine WA, Perth, WA.
  • 3 Kimberley Public Health Unit, Broome, WA.


We thank Dr Carole Reeve (Public Health Medical Officer, Kimberley Public Health Unit, Broome), Dr Shelley Deeks (formerly, Deputy Director, Surveillance, National Centre for Immunisation Research and Surveillance), the staff of the Kimberley Population Health Unit, and laboratory staff at PathWest.

Competing interests:

None identified.

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