Frequently Asked Questions

What is mumps?

Mumps is a disease that is caused by the mumps virus. It spreads easily through coughing and sneezing. Mumps can cause fever, headache, body aches, fatigue and inflammation of the salivary (spit) glands, which can lead to swelling of the cheeks and jaws.

Who gets mumps?

Mumps is a common childhood disease, but adults can also get mumps. While vaccination reduces the chances of getting ill considerably, even those fully immunized can get the disease.

How do people get mumps?

Mumps is spread from person to person. When an infected person talks, coughs or sneezes, the virus is released into the air and enters another person’s body through the nose, mouth or throat. People can also become sick if they eat food or use utensils, cups or other objects that have come into contact with the mucus or saliva (spit) from an infected person.

What are the symptoms of mumps?

The most common symptoms include:

  • Fever
  • Headache
  • Muscle aches
  • Tiredness
  • Loss of appetite
  • Swollen and tender salivary glands under the ears on one or both sides (parotitis)

How long does it take for symptoms to appear?

The incubation period is the time between exposure to an infectious disease and the appearance of the first signs or symptoms. The average incubation period for mumps is 16-18 days, with a range of 12-25 days. Fever may persist for 3-4 days and parotitis, when present, usually lasts 7-10 days.

Up to one third of individuals who get mumps have very mild or no symptoms, and therefore do not know they were infected with mumps.

How long is someone with mumps infectious?

The infectious period is the time period during which an infected person can spread the disease to others. Persons with mumps are usually considered most infectious from 1-2 days before onset of symptoms, until 5 days after onset of parotitis (inflammation of the salivary glands).

Are there complications with a mumps virus infection?

In children, mumps is usually a mild disease. Adults may have more serious disease and more complications. More than half of the deaths due to mumps happen among people over 19 years of age Although severe complications due to mumps are rare, the following complications can still occur:

  • Swelling of the brain or of the tissue lining the brain and spinal cord (encephalitis/meningitis)
  • Swelling of the testes (orchitis)
  • Swelling of the ovaries (oophoritis) or breasts (mastitis)
  • Miscarriage
  • Deafness, usually permanent

How is mumps diagnosed?

Mumps is diagnosed by a combination of symptoms and physical signs and laboratory confirmation of the virus, as not all cases develop characteristic parotitis and not all cases of parotitis are caused by mumps.

What is the treatment for mumps?

There is no “cure” for mumps, only supportive treatment (bed rest, fluids and fever reduction). Most cases will recover on their own.

If someone becomes very ill, he/she should seek medical attention. The ill person should call the doctor in advance so that he/she doesn’t have to sit in the waiting room for a long time and possibly infect other patients.

How can mumps be prevented?

Getting vaccinated against mumps is the best way to prevent the disease. This vaccine is included in the combination measles-mumps-rubella (MMR) and measles-mumps-rubella-varicella (MMRV) vaccines.

Where can I get a mumps vaccination in Louisiana?

  • Your private health care provider
  • Your student health center
  • Most community pharmacies
  • If you are uninsured, call a public health unit

In addition to vaccination, how else can we prevent mumps?

Some additional things people can do to help prevent the spread of mumps include:

  • Stay at home for 5 days after symptoms begin; avoid school or work settings.
  • Cover your mouth and nose with a tissue when you cough or sneeze.
  • Don’t share eating utensils or food. • Clean surfaces that are frequently touched (such as toys, doorknobs, tables, counters, etc.) with soap and water or with cleaning wipes regularly.
  • Wash your hands frequently with soap and water or an alcohol-based hand cleaner.

For additional information and materials on proper handwashing techniques, please visit the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

If I think I have been exposed to mumps, what should I do?

If you feel you have been exposed to mumps, you should take extra care to monitor for the signs and symptoms (low grade fever, fatigue, and swollen jaw/cheek) for several weeks following the possible exposure. Take extra precautions during this time to practice good hand and cough hygiene, and do not share utensils, drinks, etc.

If ANY of these symptoms develop, even mild, you should contact your health care provider or student health center immediately and stay isolated from others.

Some students may be excluded from school if they are not fully vaccinated:

  • Students who have had one MMR vaccination in their lifetime should get a second MMR vaccine and be allowed to remain in school.
  • Students who have never received a MMR vaccine and with no other evidence of mumps immunity should immediately begin the vaccination series.These students may be excluded from class until after they begin the vaccination series.

Potentially exposed students that have been exempted from mumps vaccination for medical, religious or other reasons should be excluded until the 26th day after the onset of parotitis in the last person with mumps in the affected school.

Why do mumps outbreaks still occur?

Outbreaks can still occur in highly-vaccinated U.S. communities, particularly in close-contact settings. In recent years, outbreaks have occurred in schools, colleges, and camps. However, high vaccination coverage helps limit the size, duration, and spread of mumps outbreaks. For more information on outbreaks, please visit http://www.cdc.gov/mumps/outbreaks.html

I don’t recall if I received the mumps vaccine. How do I locate official copies of my vaccination records?

If you need official copies of vaccination records, or if you need to update your personal records, there are several places you can look:

  • Ask parents or other caregivers if they have records of your childhood immunizations.
  • Try looking through baby books or other saved documents from your childhood.
  • Check with your high school or college health services for dates of any immunizations. Keep in mind that generally records are kept only for one to two years after students leave the system.
  • Check with previous employers (including the military) that may have required immunizations.
  • Check with your doctor or public health clinic. Keep in mind that vaccination records are maintained at doctors’ offices for a limited number of years.
  • Contact your state’s health department. Some states have registries (Immunization Information Systems) that include adult vaccines. LINKS is the official immunization registry for Louisiana.

I am not sure how many doses of MMR vaccine I received. Should I get vaccinated? Is it safe to receive an extra dose of MMR vaccine?

Yes, you should get vaccinated. It is safe to receive another vaccine if you are unsure of your vaccination history. There is no evidence that adverse (unfavorable) reactions are increased when MMR is given to a person who is already immune to one or more of the components of the vaccine. Contact your health care provider for further information.

Where can I get more information on mumps?

  • Your health care provider
  • Centers for Disease Control & Prevention: www.cdc.gov/mumps