Mumps is a disease that is caused by the mumps virus. It spreads easily through coughing and sneezing. Mumps can cause fever, headache, body aches, fatigue and inflammation of the salivary (spit) glands, which can lead to swelling of the cheeks and jaws.
Mumps is a common childhood disease, but adults can also get mumps. While vaccination reduces the chances of getting ill considerably, even those fully immunized can get the disease.
Mumps is spread from person to person. When an infected person talks, coughs or sneezes, the virus is released into the air and enters another person’s body through the nose, mouth or throat. People can also become sick if they eat food or use utensils, cups or other objects that have come into contact with the mucus or saliva (spit) from an infected person.
The most common symptoms include:
The incubation period is the time between exposure to an infectious disease and the appearance of the first signs or symptoms. The average incubation period for mumps is 16-18 days, with a range of 12-25 days. Fever may persist for 3-4 days and parotitis, when present, usually lasts 7-10 days.
Up to one third of individuals who get mumps have very mild or no symptoms, and therefore do not know they were infected with mumps.
The infectious period is the time period during which an infected person can spread the disease to others. Persons with mumps are usually considered most infectious from 1-2 days before onset of symptoms, until 5 days after onset of parotitis (inflammation of the salivary glands).
In children, mumps is usually a mild disease. Adults may have more serious disease and more complications. More than half of the deaths due to mumps happen among people over 19 years of age Although severe complications due to mumps are rare, the following complications can still occur:
Mumps is diagnosed by a combination of symptoms and physical signs and laboratory confirmation of the virus, as not all cases develop characteristic parotitis and not all cases of parotitis are caused by mumps.
There is no “cure” for mumps, only supportive treatment (bed rest, fluids and fever reduction). Most cases will recover on their own.
If someone becomes very ill, he/she should seek medical attention. The ill person should call the doctor in advance so that he/she doesn’t have to sit in the waiting room for a long time and possibly infect other patients.
Getting vaccinated against mumps is the best way to prevent the disease. This vaccine is included in the combination measles-mumps-rubella (MMR) and measles-mumps-rubella-varicella (MMRV) vaccines.
Some additional things people can do to help prevent the spread of mumps include:
For additional information and materials on proper handwashing techniques, please visit the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
If you feel you have been exposed to mumps, you should take extra care to monitor for the signs and symptoms (low grade fever, fatigue, and swollen jaw/cheek) for several weeks following the possible exposure. Take extra precautions during this time to practice good hand and cough hygiene, and do not share utensils, drinks, etc.
If ANY of these symptoms develop, even mild, you should contact your health care provider or student health center immediately and stay isolated from others.
Some students may be excluded from school if they are not fully vaccinated:
Potentially exposed students that have been exempted from mumps vaccination for medical, religious or other reasons should be excluded until the 26th day after the onset of parotitis in the last person with mumps in the affected school.
Outbreaks can still occur in highly-vaccinated U.S. communities, particularly in close-contact settings. In recent years, outbreaks have occurred in schools, colleges, and camps. However, high vaccination coverage helps limit the size, duration, and spread of mumps outbreaks. For more information on outbreaks, please visit http://www.cdc.gov/mumps/outbreaks.html
If you need official copies of vaccination records, or if you need to update your personal records, there are several places you can look:
Yes, you should get vaccinated. It is safe to receive another vaccine if you are unsure of your vaccination history. There is no evidence that adverse (unfavorable) reactions are increased when MMR is given to a person who is already immune to one or more of the components of the vaccine. Contact your health care provider for further information.