Lab Testing for Mumps at the MDH Public Health Laboratory - Minnesota Dept. of Health

Lab Testing for Mumps at the MDH Public Health Laboratory

Though mumps is no longer common in the United States, outbreaks continue to occur as a result of internationally imported or import-linked cases. Continued success in disease reduction is dependent on maintaining awareness of the disease along with improving vaccination rates.  

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Clinical case definition

Specimen collection
Specimen submission to MDH
Swabs and media
Collection instructions: PCR
Results and turnaround
Additional information

Clinical case definition

An acute illness characterized by parotitis/other salivary gland swelling (lasting at least 2 days), orchitis or oophoritis unexplained by another more likely diagnosis.

Specimen collection

Specimens for PCR(1) (preferred):

  • Collect specimens for PCR as soon as mumps is suspected (maximum 9 days after swelling onset). Consider day 0 as swelling onset date:
    • Day 0-5 of swelling: buccal swab
    • Day 6-9 of swelling: buccal swab and urine
  • Send PCR specimens to the MDH Public Health Laboratory (MDH-PHL).

Serum for mumps IgM:

Mumps IgM can be done in addition to PCR but should not be the only method used as false positives are common.

  • Collect serum as soon as mumps is suspected.(2)
  • Send serum for measles IgM to your facility’s usual reference laboratory.
    • Follow your reference lab’s instructions for serum collection and submission.

Specimen submission to MDH

  • Complete a Clinical Testing and Submission Form
      • Each specimen requires its own form.
      • Completely fill out the form and indicate which test is requested.
  • Label all tubes/containers with:
    • Patient name/date of birth
    • Date specimen collected
    • Specimen type
  • Notify MDH that specimens are being sent.
    • Use the mumps reporting form or
    • Call 651-201-5414 or toll-free at 1-877-676-5414 and provide suspect case details:
      • Patient name/date of birth
      • Address/phone number
      • Clinical presentation
      • Known exposure, travel, or MMR history
  • Keep specimen(s) cold: Store/ship specimens at refrigeration temperature (2-8°C) on ice packs.
  • Send via overnight shipping to arrive Monday-Friday between 8 a.m. and 4:30 p.m. to:
    MDH Public Health Laboratory
    Attn: Biological Accessioning
    601 Robert St. N.
    St. Paul, MN 55155-2531
  • For help with packaging and shipping, call MDH-PHL Biological Accessioning at 651-201-4953.
  • Note: If mumps is strongly suspected, the health care provider should advise exclusion from all activities, including child care, school and work through 5 days following onset of swelling.

Swabs and media

For mumps PCR, a swab in transport media should be sent. Dry swabs are not acceptable.

Appropriate swabs and media:

  • BBL Culture Swab, Culturettes, Dacron swabs
  • Viral transport medium (VTM), Universal transport medium (UTM), M5, M4, Minimum Essential Medium (MEM), Saline, Balanced salt solutions (BSS), Sterile isotonic solutions, Phosphate buffered salines (PBS), Liquid Stuart’s Medium

Inappropriate swabs and media:

  • Wood-tipped applicators, Cotton-tipped swabs, Calcium-alginate tipped swabs, Charcoal swabs, Gel swabs
  • Anaerobic media

Collection instructions: PCR

A buccal swab is preferred for mumps PCR. A throat swab is also acceptable but not preferred.

Buccal swab: Massage the buccal cavity (the space near the upper rear molars between the cheek and the teeth) for 30 and swab the area; obtain a generous amount of saliva. Place swab in a sterile tube containing 2-3 ml transport media.

Throat swab: Vigorously swab tonsillar areas and posterior nasopharynx with a viral culturette. Use tongue blade to depress tongue to prevent contamination of swab with saliva. Place swab into 2-3 ml of transport media.

Urine specimen: Collect 10-40 ml of urine in a sterile urine specimen container. Have patient void directly into container, collecting from the first part of the urine stream if possible. First-morning voided specimens are ideal, but any urine collection is adequate.

Results and turnaround

  • Results for testing done at MDH-PHL will be sent via fax to the submitting laboratory.
  • Turnaround time for PCR results is typically 1-2 business days after receipt of specimen(s).
  • Culture may be done on a specimen with negative PCR results. Turnaround time for culture is a minimum of 3 weeks.

Additional information

For more information about clinical features and vaccine information, visit Mumps Information for Health Professionals.


  1. PCR: At MDH-PHL, reverse transcriptase polymerase chain reaction (RT-PCR) is used to detect viral RNA in a sample.
  2. The optimal time to collect serum is at least 96 hours after swelling onset (so IgM has time to rise); however, it is crucial to get PCR specimens as soon as possible after swelling or symptom onset, so collect both serum and PCR specimens at the same time.

Updated Thursday, June 02, 2016 at 11:46AM