Mumps is a contagious viral disease that causes fever, headache, muscle aches, tiredness, and loss of appetite followed by swelling of salivary glands. Children and adults can get mumps. Once a common disease, routine childhood vaccination has made mumps rare in the United States.
The mumps virus is mostly spread by coughing, sneezing or other contact with saliva from someone who is infected. Mumps is just as contagious as flu. Those infected with mumps usually are contagious before symptoms appear and for a few days after, so they can spread the virus without realizing it.
There is no treatment for mumps, but there is prevention. The best protection against mumps is the MMR (measles, mumps and rubella) vaccine given at 12 to 15 months of age, with a second dose at 4 to 6 years of age. Two doses give lifelong protection against mumps to 88%, or about 9 out of 10 people. Because some people may not be completely protected, and because some people can't receive the vaccine for health reasons, it’s important for everyone to be vaccinated. This helps to keep outbreaks small and easily controlled.
Those who get the mumps even when fully vaccinated may experience milder illness and fewer complications. Without the vaccine, we would see many more cases of the mumps and many more cases with complications or severe symptoms.
Symptoms of mumps
Mumps symptoms typically include fever, headache, muscle aches, tiredness, and loss of appetite. Its most distinctive symptom is swelling of the cheeks, neck or jaw, though not everyone experiences this. Some people get no symptoms at all. The disease also can cause swelling of other glands, such as the testicles.
Potential complications of mumps include hearing loss, meningitis (swelling of the covering of the brain and spinal cord), and brain damage. Complications often require medical treatment. In rare cases, mumps is deadly. Adults are more likely than children to become very sick with mumps.
Symptoms of mumps generally last from one week to ten days. There is no specific treatment for mumps.
Age groups at risk
Mumps can affect all ages. However, outbreaks most often occur on college campuses, among sports teams, and in other places with long-term close contact. It is especially important for people in these settings to make sure they are fully immunized against mumps. People born before 1957 are usually immune because they have had mumps, but adults born after 1957 should check to make sure they are up to date with mumps vaccine.
If you think you or your child has mumps
Do not go to work, school, or public places. Call your clinic or doctor before going in, and tell them you or your child may have mumps. They may not want you to sit in the waiting area. Instead they may ask you to come into the clinic or doctor’s office another way. These steps will keep from spreading mumps to other people.
For more information contact:
- Your local health office, or the Health Info Hotline at 1-866-HLTHY4U (1-866-458-4948).