Mumps is an acute viral disease characterized by fever, swelling, and tenderness of one or more salivary glands. Mumps is not common in the United States due to robust vaccination programs. The measles-mumps-rubella (MMR) vaccine protects against mumps, though follow-up doses are sometimes needed. 

Who gets mumps?

Anyone who is not immune from either previous mumps infection or from vaccination can get mumps. Before the routine vaccination program was introduced in the United States, mumps was a common illness in infants, children, and young adults. Because most people have now been vaccinated, mumps is now a rare disease in the United States. Mumps is more common during winter and spring.

How is mumps spread?

Mumps is spread when an infected person coughs or sneezes and sends the mumps virus into the air. The virus can land in other people's noses or throats when they breathe or put their fingers to their mouth or nose after handling an infected surface.

Symptoms of mumps

Symptoms of mumps include:

  • fever
  • headache
  • swelling and tenderness of one or more of the salivary glands located close to the jaw. The salivary gland most often affected is the parotid gland (located just below the front of the ear).

Approximately one-third of infected people do not exhibit symptoms.

The incubation period is usually 16 to 18 days, although it may vary from 14 to 25 days.

What complications have been associated with mumps?

Mumps can cause encephalitis (inflammation of the brain), meningitis (inflammation of the covering of the brain and spinal column), inflammation of the testes or ovaries, inflammation of the pancreas, and deafness (usually not permanent).

When and for how long is a person able to spread mumps?

Mumps is generally transmitted from about 3 days before symptoms appear to about 5 days after, although the virus has been isolated from saliva as early as 7 days before to as late as 9 days after the onset of symptoms.

Does past infection with mumps make a person immune?

Immunity acquired after contracting the disease is usually permanent.

Vaccination via two doses, at least 28 days apart on or after someone’s first birthday also usually protects, but for those who were in close contact with an ill person, Miami encourages considering getting a 3rd dose of the MMR vaccine.

A vaccination (3rd dose or otherwise) does not protect from previous exposure to the disease but provides additional protection from new or future exposures.