Mumps

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Mumps is a contagious disease caused by the mumps virus. It can happen any time of the year, and can cause long-term health problems. The virus is mostly spread by coughing, sneezing or other contact with saliva from someone who is infected. It is 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. It's important for everyone to get the measles, mumps and rubella (MMR) vaccine to protect themselves and prevent the spread of the mumps virus.

The MMR vaccine is not perfect, but it is the best protection we have against mumps. Two doses gives lifelong protection against mumps to 88%, or about 9 out of 10 people. This means about 12 out of every 100 vaccinated people are still vulnerable to mumps, especially if they have prolonged, close exposure to someone who is contagious. That's why it's important for everyone to get the vaccine, to protect people for whom the vaccine might not work, and those who can't 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.

What should you do 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.

More information

Vaccine information

During an outbreak

  • If you don't think you ever received MMR or MMRV (combination MMR and varicella) vaccine and there is an outbreak in your community, contact your healthcare provider as soon as possible to get immunized, or get a blood test. If you don't have a healthcare provider, call your local health department or the Family Health Hotline at 1-800-322-2588.
  • If you think you have been exposed to mumps, contact your healthcare provider for advice.
  • If you become ill after a possible exposure to mumps, contact your healthcare provider and ask to be evaluated for possible mumps infection. Stay away from other people to avoid exposing them to mumps.
  • If there's a mumps outbreak in your community, your local public health department will provide outbreak control recommendations, including whether a third dose of mumps vaccine may be recommended for some high-risk people.
  • Healthcare providers: Mumps is a notifiable condition.
  • Mumps outbreak information from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
  • History of mumps cases in Washington