Laboratory Testing for Mumps

Mumps is a moderately communicable viral disease that is reportable under the Health Protection and Promotion Act, 1990, Chapter H.7, Ontario Regulation 135/18.  It is characterized by fever, swelling and/or tenderness of one or more salivary glands, usually the parotid and sometimes the sublingual or submaxillary glands. However, approximately one-third of infections do not cause clinically apparent salivary gland swelling, but may present as a lower respiratory illness, particularly in children under five.

Mumps is transmitted by droplet and spread by direct contact with the saliva of a case. The incubation period is 12 to 25 days. Communicability is from seven days before to five days after the onset of parotitis.

Laboratory testing is required for any suspect case of mumps and should include both specimens (urine and buccal or throat swab) for virus detection by PCR and serology. Results must be reported to Ottawa Public Health.

Notify the local public health unit on all individuals who are being tested for mumps. Please contact the PHO’s laboratory Customer Services Centre at 416-235-6556 or 1-877-604-4567 prior to submitting samples for mumps PCR testing. This will facilitate testing planning and prioritization.

Virus Detection by PCR

A buccal or throat swab should be obtained within 9 days of the symptom onset. Specimens should be collected using the Virus Culture Kit order#: 390081. When doing a buccal swab,  massage the parotid gland area for about 30 seconds prior to collection of the buccal secretions (for more information, please see Public Health Ontario Laboratories’ Mumps – Diagnostic – PCR web page).


Approximately 50 ml of clean catch urine should be collected in a screw top sterile container within 14 days of the symptom onset.

One General Test Requisition Form is sufficient for both specimens. Indicate mumps testing on the requisition. Mark the specimen source(s), date of collection, symptoms and clinical diagnosis, dates of onset of parotitis, exposure/travel history, and vaccination history on the requisition. Failure to provide this information may result in rejection or testing delay.

Mumps PCR is performed on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays. Turnaround time: up to three days from receipt by Public Health Ontario Laboratories (PHOL). Turnaround time: up to three days from receipt by Public Health Ontario Laboratories.

For more information, please see Public Health Ontario Laboratories’ Mumps – Diagnostic – PCR web page.

Acute Serology

A blood specimen for mumps antibodies, IgM and IgG, should be collected within seven days of the symptom onset.  PCR testing should also be done on all persons presenting with signs and symptoms of mumps.

Mumps IgG and IgM testing will be performed on diagnostic requests only when the following clinical information is provided on the General Test Requisition Form indicating acute/recent infection, vaccination history, relevant signs, symptoms, and/or clinical history, and onset date.

Mumps serology to detect Mumps IgG and IgM is performed daily Monday to Friday. Turnaround time: up to five days from receipt by Public Health Ontario Laboratories (PHOL).

Convalescent Serology

A convalescent serum specimen IgM and IgG for mumps should be collected  7 to 10 days after the initial (acute) sample, f the acute blood sample shows indeterminate or non reactive IgG result and/or IgM result, a convalescent sample should be collected. The requisition should specify that the blood specimen is for “convalescent mumps serology.”

For more information, on acute and convalescent serology, see Public Health Ontario Laboratories’ Mumps – Diagnostic – Serology web page.

Storage and Transport Requirements

Label the specimen container with the patient’s full name, date of collection and one other unique identifier such as the patient’s date of birth or Health Card Number. Failure to provide this information may result in rejection or testing delay.

Centrifuge if using SST. Place specimen in biohazard bag and seal. Specimens should be stored at 2 to 8°C following collection and shipped to PHO Laboratory on ice packs.

Laboratory Requisition Requirements

  • For suspect cases, the requisition must include the following relevant clinical information:
  • Ordering physician’s name and telephone number
  • Mumps IgG and IgM
  • Type of specimen (i.e. buccal swab)
  • Immunization history, exposure history and travel history outside Ottawa prior to the first symptom 
  • Clinical symptoms such as parotitis, orchitis, and date of onset
  • Reason for testing (i.e. “to diagnose disease”, “mumps testing”)

When visiting a community laboratory, a suspect case should ideally wear a surgical/procedure mask and be seen immediately upon arrival at the laboratory to reduce the risk of transmission to susceptible persons in the laboratory.


Results from PHOL are reported to the ordering physician or health care professional as indicated on the requisition.

Physicians and healthcare professionals can report cases of mumps immediately to Ottawa Public Health (this includes suspect cases who are being tested but for whom lab results are not yet available):

Monday to Friday from 8:30 am to 4:30 pm: Call 613-580-2424, extension 24224 or fax 613-580-9640. A generic webform and reporting form (pdf - 235 KB) are available for your convenience.

After hours, on weekends, or holidays: Call 3-1-1 and ask to speak to Public Health on call.

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