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Mumps: The Facts Behind the Disease

Mumps: The Facts Behind the Disease

Mumps is a contagious illness caused by paramyxovirus. Less communicable than measles, it occurs mainly in unimmunized populations but outbreaks among largely immunized populations have occurred.

Before the U.S. mumps vaccination program started in 1967, 186,000 cases were reported each year.

  • The combination MMR (measles, mumps, rubella; 1971) and MMR II (1978) was originally a single-dose vaccine

  • By 1981, the number of reported measles cases was 80% less than the previous year

  • A 1989 measles outbreaks among vaccinated children prompted the recommendation of a second MMR dose

  • Since 1989, mumps cases decreased more than 99%, with only a few hundred cases reported most years. However, since 2006, there have been several increases in cases and outbreaks

From January 1 to March 29, 2019, there has been 426 cases from 34 states reported to CDC.

UPDATE: January 1 to July 19, 2019: 1,799 cases reported in 45 states and the District of Columbia.


The incubation period of mumps is 12 to 25 days, but parotitis typically develops 16 to 18 days after exposure:

  • Parotitis: tender and swollen parotid glands (above photo: right jaw and cheek are swollen. Parotid glands make saliva)

  • Fever

  • Headache

  • Muscle aches

  • Tiredness

  • Loss of appetite

  • None

Most people recover completely within two weeks.


  • Inflammation of the testicles in males who have reached puberty

  • Inflammation of the ovaries and/or breast tissue

  • Pancreatitis: inflammation of the pancreas

  • Encephalitis: inflammation of the brain

  • Meningitis: inflammation of the tissue covering the brain and spinal cord

  • Permanent deafness

Transmission: Spreads through direct contact with saliva or respiratory droplets from the mouth, nose, or throat. An infected person can spread the virus by:

  • Coughing, sneezing, or talking

  • Sharing items that may have saliva on them, such as water bottles or cups

  • Participating in close-contact activities with others, such as playing sports, dancing, or kissing

  • Touching contaminated objects or surfaces


There is no cure for mumps. Treatment focuses on treating symptoms to make the person as comfortable as possible:

  • Drink plenty of fluids

  • If the glands are swollen and causing discomfort, ice or heat packs can help ease the pain

  • Non-aspirin medications such acetaminophen and ibuprofen can be used to bring a fever under control and help with pain from swollen glands

Do not give your child aspirin. Children with viruses such as mumps who take aspirin can develop Reye’s Syndrome, a dangerous disease that causes liver failure, swelling of the brain, and death.


Mumps vaccine is the best way to protect your child against mumps. It is given as part of a combination vaccine that protects against measles, mumps, and rubella (MMR).

Children should get two doses of MMR vaccine:

  • First dose: 12 through 15 months of age, and

  • Second dose: 4 through 6 years of age

One dose of MMR vaccine is 93% effective against measles, 78% effective against mumps, and 97% effective against rubella. Two doses of MMR vaccine are 97% effective against measles and 88% effective against mumps.

Your child’s doctor may also offer the MMRV vaccine, a combination vaccine that protects against four diseases: measles, mumps, rubella, and varicella (chickenpox).

Mumps Outbreaks

  • Mumps outbreaks can occur in highly vaccinated communities, particularly in settings where people have close, prolonged contact, such as universities and close-knit communities

  • Some people who get two doses of MMR vaccine may still get mumps if they are exposed to the viruses during these outbreaks

  • Experts aren’t sure why; it could be that their immune systems didn’t respond as well as they should have to the vaccine or their immune system’s ability to fight the infection decreased over time. However, disease symptoms are generally milder in vaccinated people, and high vaccination coverage helps to limit the size, duration, and spread of mumps outbreaks

  • In the event of an outbreak, public health authorities may recommend that people at increased risk get a third dose of MMR to improve their protection against mumps

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