What is Mumps?
Mumps is a contagious disease caused by a virus that spreads easily through coughing and sneezing. There is no cure for mumps, and it can cause serious health problems. The measles-mumps-rubella (MMR) vaccine is the best way to help protect against mumps.
- Before the vaccine, about 186,000 cases of mumps were reported each year in the US
- Compared to the pre-vaccine era, the number of mumps cases in the US dropped by more than 99
Outbreaks of mumps still occur in the US, usually among people who live in close quarters or have prolonged, close contact with an individual who has mumps. Mumps spreads easily through coughing or sneezing, or through close contact, such as sharing cups or water bottles, kissing, or playing sports with someone who has been infected.
Mumps typically starts with a few days of fever, headache, muscle aches, tiredness, and loss of appetite,
followed by swelling of the salivary glands under the ears on one or both sides, which causes puffy cheeks and a tender, swollen jaw.
Symptoms typically appear 16-18 days after infection, but this period can range from 12–25 days after
infection. Some people who get mumps have very mild symptoms (like a cold), or no symptoms at all and may not know they have the disease.
Most people with mumps recover completely within two weeks. However, in rare cases, mumps can cause serious complications, including:
- swollen testicles, which may lead to a decrease in testicular size
- swollen ovaries or breast tissue
- inflammation in the pancreas (pancreatitis)
- inflammation of the brain (encephalitis)
- inflammation of the tissue covering the brain and spinal cord (meningitis)
Neither inflammation of the testicles nor inflammation of the ovaries caused by mumps has been shown to lead to infertility.
The measles-mumps-rubella (MMR) vaccine is the best way to protect against mumps. Among those who are vaccinated, some may still get mumps if they are exposed to the virus but the risk of getting the disease in a vaccinated person is much lower compared to an unvaccinated person.
Children should get two doses of the MMR vaccine:
- the first dose at age 12-15 months
- the second dose at age 4-6 years
Teens and adults should also be up to date on MMR vaccination:
- Anyone born during or after 1957 who has never had mumps or has never been vaccinated should get vaccinated.
- College students who do not have evidence of immunity need two doses of MMR vaccine, separated by at least 28 days.
- If they are susceptible, other adults at higher risk, such as international travelers and healthcare
professionals, should also get two doses of the MMR vaccine.
There are currently no medications available to treat mumps. Getting plenty of rest, drinking enough fluids, applying a warm or cool compress to swollen glands, eating softer foods that do not require as much chewing, and over-the-counter painkillers can help.
Updated June 2020
Source: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
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