What's in this article?
What is mumps?
Mumps is a viral infection and contagious disease caused by a virus that primarily affects the parotid glands. It typically starts with a few days of fever, headache, muscle aches, tiredness, and loss of appetite, followed by swollen salivary glands. If you or your child contracts mumps, it can cause swelling in one or both parotid glands.
What is history of mumps?
Medical historians believe that documentation of a clinical illness consistent with mumps dates back to Greco-Roman times. The first effective vaccine against mumps was introduced in 1948 and used from 1950-1978. Unfortunately, this vaccine strain had limited long-term immune memory effectiveness. The current strain used in the United States and worldwide provides over 80% long-term immunity. The current childhood mumps immunization schedule recommends vaccination at 12-15 months old and a booster at 4-6 years of age. The mumps vaccine is commonly administered as part of a combination vaccine (MMR) also providing protection against measles and rubella (German measles)
- Mumps is a highly contagious viral infection with an incubation period of 14-18 days from exposure to onset of symptoms. The duration of the disease is approximately 10 days.
- The initial symptoms of mumps infection are nonspecific (low-grade fever, malaise, headache, muscle aches, and loss of appetite). The classic finding of parotid gland tenderness and swelling generally develops the third day of illness. The diagnosis is generally made without the need for laboratory tests.
- Serious complications of mumps include meningitis, encephalitis, deafness, and orchitis.
- The MMR vaccine provides 80% effective immunity against mumps following a two-dosage schedule (12-15 months with booster at 4-6 years of age).
- No specific therapy exists for mumps. Warm or cold packs for the parotid gland tenderness and swelling is helpful. Pain relievers (acetaminophen [Tylenol] and ibuprofen [Advil]) are also helpful.
How do you get mumps?
Mumps is a virus, which spreads easily from person to person through infected saliva. If you’re not immune, you can contract mumps by breathing in saliva droplets of an infected person who has just sneezed or coughed. You can also contract mumps from sharing utensils or cups with someone who has mumps.
How mumps is spread
Mumps is spread in the same way as colds and flu through infected droplets of saliva that can be inhaled or picked up from surfaces and transferred into the mouth or nose.
A person is most contagious a few days before the symptoms develop and for a few days afterwards.
During this time, it’s important to prevent the infection spreading to others, particularly teenagers and young adults who haven’t been vaccinated.
If you have mumps, you can help prevent it spreading by:
- regularly washing your hands with soap
- using and disposing of tissues when you sneeze
- avoiding school or work for at least five days after your symptoms first develop
Mumps can be prevented by vaccination. The vaccine is given as part of the measles-mumps-rubella (MMR) immunization, which is usually given to children at 12–15 months of age. A second dose of MMR is generally given at 4-6 years of age. As is the case with all immunization schedules, there are important exceptions and special circumstances. For example, a child who will be traveling outside the United States should get the vaccine as early as 6 months of age.
If they haven’t already received them, students who are attending colleges and other post-high school institutions should be sure they have had two doses of the MMR vaccine.
During a measles outbreak, your doctor may recommend additional shots of the vaccine if your child is 1-4 years old. Your doctor will have the most current information.