(Updated April 2006)

What is mumps?

It is an infection caused by the mumps virus.

Who can get mumps?

Anyone who is not immune from either previous mumps infection or from vaccination can get mumps. Before the routine vaccination program was introduced in the United States, mumps was a common illness in infants, children, and young adults. Because most people have now been vaccinated, mumps is now a rare disease in the United States. Of those people who do get mumps, up to half have very mild, or no symptoms, and therefore do not know they were infected with mumps.

What are the symptoms of mumps?

The most common symptoms are fever, headache, muscle aches, tiredness, and loss of appetite, followed by onset of parotitis (swollen and tender salivary glands under the ears, on one or both sides).

Mumps can lead to hearing loss; aseptic meningitis (infection of the covering of the brain and spinal cord) in about 10 percent of cases; painful, swollen testicles in 20 percent to 30 percent of males who have reached puberty (orchitis) but rarely does this lead to fertility problems; and painful, swollen breasts in about 30 percent of women who have reached puberty (mastitis); and in a very few cases, inflammation of the ovaries.

Are there complications of mumps?

Severe complications are rare. However, mumps can cause the following:

Inflammation of the brain and/or tissue covering the brain and spinal cord (encephalitis/meningitis); inflammation of the testicles (orchitis); inflammation of the ovaries and/or breasts (oophoritis and mastitis); spontaneous abortion, particularly in early pregnancy (miscarriage); deafness, usually permanent.

How soon do symptoms appear?

Symptoms typically appear sixteen to eighteen days after infection, but this period can range from twelve to twenty-five days after infection.

How is mumps spread?

Mumps is spread by mucus or droplets from the nose or throat of an infected person, usually when a person coughs or sneezes. Surfaces of items (e.g. toys) can also spread the virus if someone who is sick touches them without washing his/her hands, and someone else then touches the same surface and rubs his/her eyes, mouth, nose, etc. (This is called fomite transmission.)

How long is an infected person able to spread the disease?

Mumps virus has been isolated from respiratory secretions three days before the start of symptoms until nine days after onset.

What is the treatment for mumps?

There is no specific treatment. Supportive care should be given as needed. If someone becomes very ill, he/she should seek medical attention. Those who seek medical attention should call their doctor in advance, so that they don't have to sit in the waiting room for a long time and possibly infect other patients.

How do I protect myself (my kids/my family)?

Mumps vaccine (usually MMR) is the best way to prevent mumps. Other things people can do to prevent mumps and other infections is to wash hands well and often with soap and teach children to wash their hands, too. Eating utensils should not be shared, and surfaces that are frequently touched (toys, doorknobs, tables, counters, etc.) should also be regularly cleaned with soap and water, or with cleaning wipes.

Is there a vaccine to prevent mumps?

Yes. Two doses of mumps-containing vaccine, given as combination measles, mumps, rubella (MMR) vaccine, separated by at least twenty-eight days, are routinely recommended for all children. The first dose is given on or after the first birthday; the second is given at four to six years of age. MMR is a live, weakened (attenuated) vaccine. Most adults who have not been vaccinated should also receive one dose of MMR vaccine, but adults who work in health care, a school/university setting, and persons at high risk of exposure to mumps should get two doses. Pregnant women and persons with an impaired immune system should not receive live attenuated vaccines (MMR vaccine).

Is the vaccine effective/does it work?

One dose of mumps vaccine will “take” (be effective) in approximately 80 percent of people vaccinated, but two doses of mumps vaccine will take in approximately 90 percent of people. Therefore, two doses are better at preventing mumps than one dose.

Where can I get the vaccine?

IUP does not carry the mumps vaccine. Most family and pediatric doctors keep vaccine in their clinics, and local health departments usually have vaccine. If someone isn't sure where to get vaccine, he/she can call the local or state health department.

What should I do if I don't know if I've been vaccinated?

Get vaccinated. The MMR vaccine is safe, and there is no increased risk of side effects if a person gets another vaccination.

If I had mumps as a child, can I get it again? Should I get vaccinated?

Most people who have mumps will be protected (immune) from getting mumps again. There is a small percentage of people, though, who could get reinfected with mumps and have a milder illness. If the case of mumps was not diagnosed by a physician, that person is not considered immune, and vaccination is recommended.

If I was exposed to someone with mumps, what should I do?

Not everyone who is exposed to someone with mumps will get sick. If a person has been vaccinated with two doses of mumps vaccine, it is very unlikely he/she will get mumps. However, if a person hasn't been vaccinated, it is possible he/she could get sick and that person should watch for symptoms of mumps. Additionally, if a person hasn't been vaccinated, this is a good time to get another dose of mumps vaccine and to make sure that everyone else in the house is also vaccinated. Mumps vaccine has not been shown to be effective in preventing disease after exposure, but vaccination of exposed susceptible persons will reduce the risk of disease from possible future exposures. If symptoms develop (generally sixteen to eighteen days after exposure), the person should not go to school or work for at least nine days and should contact his/her medical provider.