Protect Yourself from Mumps

What is the mumps?

Mumps is a disease caused by a virus. It is characterized by swelling of the salivary glands that lasts at least two days. Symptoms of mumps were first described by Hippocrates in the fifth century BC.

Signs and Symptoms

Symptoms of mumps begin about 16-18 days after infection and include:

  • Swelling and tenderness of one or both salivary glands, usually the parotid glands located just below the front of the ear/jaw;
  • Fever;
  • Headache;
  • Muscle aches;
  • Tiredness; and
  • Loss of appetite.

Causes and Transmission

Mumps is spread by direct contact with or by inhaling droplets that contain the virus. Although mumps virus has been found in saliva from seven days before onset of salivary gland swelling to nine days afterwards, a person is most infectious between two days before and five days after swelling. People with mumps virus infection may not have any symptoms, but may still be able to spread the disease to others.

Risk Factors

Those at highest risk of mumps infection are people with no or incomplete immunization for mumps. People who have very prolonged and close contact with a case of mumps may also become infected, even with complete vaccination.


There is no specific treatment for mumps, and most patients recover completely in a few weeks.


Immunization against mumps is the best way to prevent becoming infected. Two doses of mumps vaccine, given at 12-15 months and at 4-6 years of age, is recommended. In the United States, two types of vaccines for mumps are available:

  • MMR combination of vaccines for measles, mumps and rubella (German measles)
  • MMRV combination of vaccines for measles, mumps, rubella and varicella (chickenpox)

In accordance with Pennsylvania Department of Health regulations, any attendee or staff member of a school or daycare who has mumps must be excluded from school or daycare for nine days from the onset of symptoms or until swelling has resolved.

Mumps Outbreaks

Mumps outbreaks can occur any time of year. A major factor contributing to outbreaks is being in a crowded environment, such as attending the same class, playing on the same sports team, or living in a dormitory with a person who has mumps. Also, certain behaviors that result in exchanging saliva, such as kissing or sharing utensils, cups, lip balm or cigarettes, might increase spread of the virus. In some years, there are more cases of mumps than usual because of outbreaks.

Mumps 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. MMR vaccine prevents most, but not all, cases of mumps and complications caused by the disease. Two doses of the vaccine are 88% (range: 66 to 95%) effective at protecting against mumps; one dose is 78% (range: 49% to 92%) effective. Studies have shown that the MMR vaccine protects against currently circulating mumps strains.

In 2016 and 2017, a number of cases and outbreaks have been reported to CDC, primarily associated with college settings. These outbreaks have ranged in size from a few to several hundred cases, have mostly affected young adults, and are likely due to a combination of factors. These factors include the known effectiveness of the vaccine, waning immunity following vaccination, and the intensity of exposure to the virus in close-contact settings (such as a college campus) coupled with behaviors that increase the risk of transmission.

All information obtained from the CDC and Pennsylvania Department of Health. For more information, visit