Mumps is not a joke

A post on a friend’s timeline reminded me about my mumpy experience. We had not been long in Australia, only four or five months, and had just settled in Perth. We drove  across the Nullabor in August, the three of us in a small blue Laser with all our worldly possessions. We had been in Hobart for a couple of months, including my 38th birthday. On the ferry from Tasmania back to Melbourne, I held someone’s baby for her for a little while. I can’t remember why, probably so the mother could have a break and cup of tea. In retrospect, I guess that is when I caught the disease. This is in the early 1980s. Vaccine was available. The ‘measles, mumps and rubella’ vaccine was certainly available in Southern Africa in the 1960s. My daughter had had the vaccination there – it didn’t work though – as she also caught mumps soon after I did. As an aside; so the story goes, the vaccine sent to Africa was defective.

When I was a child, we were only vaccinated against smallpox and, a little later, polio. In those days (early 1950s) there was no sugar cube! We were inoculated with live vaccine by injection. One needle for many children – until the needle got too blunt to penetrate our tender skin. We all lined up for the needle and it was not pleasant.

Our decision to settle in Perth, Western Australia, is a long story, which I won’t go into here. However, within a couple of weeks of arriving I became very ill. How distressing to get so sick in a strange place, knowing no one and not really knowing where I was. In the event, I didn’t care, I just wanted to die. Roland found a doctor nearby and we went along. The diagnosis? Mumps. I understand that mumps is a notifiable disease in Australia, whether the GP I saw notified anybody is moot.


September that year is a month I lost, it is a month I will never get back. I believe I was too ill even to be stressed. Come October, once I was healed, I managed to get a job in the retail book trade and that was the beginning of my working life in Australia.

Please vaccinate your children. Mumps as an adult is dreadful and I can only imagine how a child would suffer.


Mumps is not a joke