Mumps Outbreak: A first in over two decades.

Increase in mumps cases in SA.(Pic: Photo by A. Harrison and F. A. Murphy, USCDCP on Pixnio)

South Africa is in the midst of a mumps outbreak for the first time in over two decades, with over 1322 positive cases reported. The National Institute for Communicable Diseases(NICD) says Kwa-Zulu Natal, Mpumalanga and Gauteng recorded the majority of cases.

The NICD last recorded a mumps outbreak in 2002. It recorded 24 cases at the time. But the NICD says mumps reporting is inconsistent,  leading to limited reports on mumps epidemiology in South Africa.

Limited reporting of positive cases

“Mumps is not a notifiable medical condition(NMC) and is not included in any formal surveillance programme. Since February 2023, the NICD has received a number of queries related to possible clusters or outbreaks,” says NICD in a statement.

The NICD confirmed the outbreak after it analysed public sector test data from 2013 until the present. The test data was of mumps PCR positives and IgM positives.

All about mumps

Mumps is an acute viral infection. The rubulavirus causes it. It is also called ‘infectious parotitis’ as it causes painful swelling of the parotid and or salivary glands.

The NICD explains that illness spread from person to person through droplets of saliva or mucus of an infected person. The virus may also spread indirectly through contact with contaminated surfaces that an infected person may have touched.

A person may develop signs and symptoms 16-18 days after exposure to an infected individual. A patient is usually considered most infectious from up to seven days before, and until five days after the onset of parotitis.

“The initial symptoms of mumps include headache, malaise, loss of appetite and fever. This is followed by an earache and characteristic pain and swelling of the parotid gland, which can occur within a day of the initial symptoms. The affected gladness will continue to swell within a day of the initial symptoms,” the NICD statement reads.

Largely a childhood disease

NICD says that mumps is generally a mild childhood disease, mostly affecting children between 5-9 years. But children outside this age group and adults can become infected. Once you get mumps once, you usually have lifelong immunity.

“The unexpected, sudden increase in mumps IgM(Immunoglobulin M) and PCR(Polymerase chain reaction) test positives, in the absence of other data, constitutes an outbreak. Annual percent-positivity for mumps IgM tests by age category shows marked increases in percent-positivity in the 1-4 year age category(84% in 2023) and the 5-9 year age category(83% in 2023), followed by the 30-34-year age category(67% and 10-14 year age category(54),” states NICD.

The World Health Organisation says humans are the known host for the virus. There is currently no cure for mumps. Supportive treatment like bed rest and increased fluid intake is recommended. “As the measles, mumps and rubella(MMR)vaccine is not universally available in South Africa, it is best to seek medical advice. – Health-e News


  • Ndivhuwo Mukwevho

    Ndivhuwo Mukwevho is citizen journalist who is based in the Vhembe District of Limpopo province. He joined OurHealth in 2015 and his interests lie in investigative journalism and reporting the untold stories of disadvantaged rural communities. Ndivhuwo holds a Bachelor of Arts degree in Media Studies from the University of Venda and he is currently a registered student with UNISA.

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