What is mumps?

Mumps is a contagious viral illness that causes fever and swelling of the salivary glands.

Who is at risk for getting mumps?

Anyone who is not immune from either previous infection or from vaccination can get mumps.  While vaccination against mumps is the best way to prevent infection, people who have received the vaccine sometimes still get this disease.  Currently two doses of a mumps-containing vaccine are recommended.  About 90% to 95% of people who have received two doses of vaccine are protected from getting disease if exposed.  For people who have had only one dose of mumps vaccine, an estimated 80% are protected.

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What are the symptoms of mumps?

Early symptoms may include fever, headache, muscle aches, tiredness, and loss of appetite, often followed by onset of parotitis (swollen and tender salivary glands under the ears, on one or both sides).  Painful, swollen testicles can develop in males who have reached puberty and painful, swollen breasts can develop in women.  Aseptic meningitis (infection of the covering of the brain and spinal cord) can occur.  Some people who get mumps have very mild, or no symptoms.

Mumps illness is usually not serious.  Severe complications are rare. However, mumps can sometimes lead to inflammation of the ovaries (oophoritis), miscarriage in early pregnancy, and very rarely to deafness or inflammation of the brain (encephalitis).

When do symptoms start?

The symptoms usually start 16 to 18 days after a person has been exposed to the mumps virus, but can start anywhere from 12 to 25 days after exposure.

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How is mumps spread?

Mumps is a viral infection that can be spread through close person-to-person contact such as coughing, sneezing or sharing drinking glasses.

How long is a person with mumps contagious?

A person infected with mumps can spread the virus to a non-infected person from approximately 3 days before symptoms appear, to 5 days after swelling of the salivary glands.

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What do I do if I am exposed to someone with mumps?

Not everyone who is exposed to someone with mumps will get sick.  Exposed people who have been vaccinated with two doses of mumps vaccine are very unlikely to get mumps.  If a person hasn’t been vaccinated or had mumps disease, it is possible they could get sick.  Mumps vaccine has not been shown to be effective in preventing disease after exposure.  But, if a person hasn’t been vaccinated with two doses, this is a good time to get another dose of mumps vaccine, and to make sure everyone living in their house is fully vaccinated.  A vaccination given after exposure is not harmful.  If the exposure wasn’t a close one, the vaccination may prevent disease in the future.

How is mumps diagnosed?

Mumps can be suspected based on symptoms.  There are other illnesses that can cause similar symptoms.  Laboratory testing is needed to confirm mumps.  This testing is arranged by your medical provider.  It is helpful to know if you have been near someone with mumps, or if you have traveled to an area where a mumps outbreak is occurring.

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What is the treatment for mumps?

There is no specific treatment for mumps.  Supportive care should be given.  If you have symptoms of mumps, call your healthcare provider right away.  If someone becomes very ill, they should seek medical attention.  Mention your concern about mumps before going in to the doctor’s office.

What can I do to prevent mumps?

Suspected cases of mumps should be reported to the Vermont Department of Health at 802-863-7240 or 1-800-640-4374

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