Mumps is an acute viral illness caused by the mumps virus. While there are fewer than 300 cases in the United States each year, some cases can be extremely dangerous. Complications can cause inflammation of the brain and surrounding tissue, spinal cord, testicles, ovaries, and/or breasts, as well as spontaneous abortions and permanent deafness.
Transmission (Spread of the Disease)
- Mumps is spread through direct contact with respiratory secretions or saliva.
- While you may contract mumps year-round, it is a seasonal disease with peaks in late winter and early spring.
- People infected with the virus are contagious three days before they begin showing symptoms and up to nine days after they begin showing symptoms.
- The incubation time of the virus—the time between exposure and the onset of symptoms—is usually 16–18 days.
- Mumps initially presents with flu-like symptoms, including headache, fever, fatigue, muscle aches, and a loss of appetite.
- Painful swelling of the parotid salivary glands (located inside the cheek underneath the ears, near the jaw line) is the most prominent symptom of mumps, occurring in 30%–40% of cases.
- Approximately 20% of those infected with mumps never show symptoms.
Treatment and Prevention
- There is currently no specific treatment for mumps.
- Experts recommend two doses of the measles, mumps, and rubella (MMR) vaccine to most effectively ensure immunization to the virus.
- Vaccination should ideally be completed during childhood, but may be administered at any age.
Where to Find Additional Information
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)