Townsville Public Health Unit (TPHU) has declared an outbreak of mumps on Palm Island.
An adult male with no recent travel history has been diagnosed as having the contagious viral illness.
TPHU director Dr Steven Donohue said all residents and visitors to Palm Island should check their MMR (measles/mumps/rubella) immunisation status as a matter of urgency.
“Extra doses of MMR vaccine have been ordered and will be arriving on Palm Island shortly,” Dr Donohue said.
“Every Indigenous person between the age of 15 and 30 should receive a free extra immunisation dose, including those who are already fully vaccinated.
“I'd urge everyone else born after 1965 to check their immunisation status to ensure they have received their two doses of the MMR vaccine and if they haven't, to get vaccinated immediately.” Older people born before 1966 would have had mumps and are most likely immune.
Dr Donohue said mumps was typically a minor illness which can cause swelling of the glands behind the jaw as well as fever, headaches and tiredness, with most people recovering within a week.
However, in severe cases, the illness can affect the testicles, pancreas or cause hearing loss. Rarely, it leads to meningitis - inflammation of the membranes around the brain and spine.
Residents of Palm Island can receive their MMR vaccination at Joyce Palmer Health Service.
Dr Donohue said the outbreak on Palm Island followed previous mumps outbreaks in Aboriginal communities in the Northern Territory, Western Queensland and the Gulf of Carpentaria.
“Mumps spreads just like influenza – by coughing and sneezing near other people, or dirty hands. People with mumps should stay away from work or school till the swelling goes down – up to nine days,” he said.
“Immunisation is the most effective counter measure to protect yourself and your community from mumps. If people are vaccinated before being exposed to the disease they will be protected in the vast majority of cases.”
MMR vaccine is routinely given at 12 and 18 months, but catch-up or extra doses can be given at any time and are routinely used during outbreaks.
The vaccine cannot be given to pregnant women, young babies and people with immune system problems.