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Everything You Need to Know About Mumps

By Nozaina Aftab, MD

1. What is Mumps?

Mumps PreventionMumps is an infection, caused by the Mumps virus. The most common symptoms include:

  • Fatigue
  • Headache
  • Muscle aches
  • Tiredness
  • Loss of appetite
  • Fever
  • Swollen or tender salivary glands under the ears on one or both sides (parotitis) which results in puffy cheeks.

Symptoms typically appear 12-25 days after exposure to the infection.

Some people who get mumps have very mild or no symptoms, and often they do not know they have mumps.  Most people with mumps recover completely in a few weeks. Mumps cannot be treated with antibiotics.

2. How can Mumps be prevented?

Mumps can be prevented with the MMR vaccine. The MMR vaccine protects against three diseases:  measles, mumps, and rubella. The CDC recommends children get two doses of MMR vaccine, starting with the first dose at 12 – 15 months of age and the second dose at 4-6 years of age. The MMR vaccine is very safe and effective.  

Other ways of preventing the spread of infection is to stay away from people with Mumps and by practicing good personal hygiene, like proper hand-washing.

Mumps cannot be treated with an antibiotic medication, but two doses of the MMR vaccine is 88% effective against the virus, while one MMR dose is 78% effective. 

3. How does the Mumps Virus spread?

Mumps is a contagious disease that spreads through saliva or mucus from the mouth, nose, or throat. An infected person can spread the virus by coughing, sneezing, or talking, sharing items, such as cups or utensils.

Mumps likely spreads before the salivary glands begin to swell and up to five days after the swelling begins.


4. I heard about the recent outbreak in Chicagoland, is my child at risk? What should I do to minimize the risk?

Make sure you or your loved one is up to date on your MMR vaccine. Let your primary care physician (PCP) know that you or a family member may not be vaccinated, you can catch up on vaccinations at any time. In any situation, including a mumps outbreak, washing your hands often with soap and water and practicing healthy habits are the most important steps you can take to avoid getting sick and spreading germs to others.

In the case of a Mumps outbreak, the Illinois Department of Public Health (IDPH) establishes free clinics for Mumps vaccination. You can also see your Primary Care Physician. Everyone who was not vaccinated in the past or only had one injection rather than two will be a candidate for vaccination again. In some cases IDPH also advises a third injection in people who had their vaccinations more than 15 years ago. If you are unsure of your vaccination status, your PCP can do the blood test to check the serology and will be able to advise you for the need of revaccination as indicated.

5. What should I do if I or someone in my family may have mumps?

First and foremost, see your primary care physician. There are blood tests that can be done to confirm Mumps in addition to a physical and clinical history. If you have mumps, you should avoid prolonged, close contact with other people at least five days after your salivary glands begin to swell because you are contagious during this time. The time it takes for symptoms to appear after a person is exposed to the virus can range from 12-25 days. Staying home while sick with mumps is an important way to avoid spreading the virus to other people.

Follow these tips to avoid the transmission of mumps:

  • Cover your mouth and nose with a tissue when you cough or sneeze and put your used tissue in the trash can
  • Wash your hands often with soap and water
  • Avoid sharing items, such as cups or eating utensils with others
  • Disinfect frequently touched surfaces, such as toys, doorknobs, faucets, tables and counters

For more information, please check with your primary care physician. CDC.org or IDPH.gov are also good resources for additional information.


Topics and Subtopics: Children's Health & Infectious Disease

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