Mumps FAQs

What is mumps?

Mumps is a viral illness that can cause fever, body aches, headaches, fatigue, swelling of the salivary glands or pain with chewing or swallowing. About a third of people who contract the mumps virus do not develop any symptoms.

What should I do if I think I’ve been exposed to mumps?

Check your immunization records to make sure you have had two doses of vaccine and be aware of signs and symptoms of mumps and seek medical care if these develop.

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What should I do if I experience symptoms of mumps?

  • Seek medical care to be properly diagnosed. Students should call UHS at 608-265-5600 or use MyUHS to make an appointment. Faculty and staff should contact their private health care provider.
  • Stay home from work, school, sports and all public gatherings for five days after symptoms start.
  • Wash your hands often with soap and water.
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How does mumps spread?

Mumps is most commonly spread when an infected person coughs or sneezes, and a non-infected person inhales respiratory droplets that contain the virus. It can also be spread via contact with saliva, such as sharing drinks, food, and utensils.

When can mumps be spread?

People with mumps are usually contagious from two days before to five days after they develop symptoms. A person is most contagious just before symptoms appear.

How soon after infection do the symptoms occur?

Symptoms usually occur 16 to 18 days after infection. The time between infection and illness can be as short as 12 days or as long as 25 days.

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What are the symptoms of mumps?

Up to half of people who get mumps have very mild or no symptoms, and therefore do not know they were infected with mumps. The most common symptoms include:

  • Swollen and tender salivary glands under the ears
  • Fever
  • Headache
  • Muscle aches
  • Tiredness
  • Loss of appetite

What problems can mumps cause?

People who show symptoms usually recover after a week or two, but mumps can occasionally cause serious complications. The most common complication is inflammation of the testicles in males. Other rare complications include: inflammation of the brain and/or tissue covering the brain and spinal cord; inflammation of the ovaries and/or breasts in females; deafness.

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Can mumps be treated?

There are currently no medications to treat the mumps virus. Instead, treatment is focused on relieving symptoms until your body’s immune system fights off the infection. People who show symptoms usually recover after a week or two.

How can a person with mumps avoid spreading it to others?

  • Stay at home for five days after symptoms (salivary gland swelling) begin; avoid school, work, social gatherings, and other public settings.
  • Cover your mouth and nose with a tissue when you cough or sneeze.
  • Wash your hands frequently with soap and water or an alcohol-based hand cleaner.
  • Avoid situations where you can spread the illness via saliva contact, such as sharing drinks, food, and utensils.

Is there a vaccine to prevent mumps?

Yes, the mumps vaccine is given on or after a child’s first birthday. In the U.S., it is usually combined with measles and rubella vaccines, together known as MMR (measles, mumps and rubella). A second dose of mumps vaccine is recommended before children enter school (when they are four to six years old). People who receive two doses of mumps vaccine are much less likely to develop mumps than those who have one dose or none. Two doses of the mumps vaccine are estimated to be 88% effective in preventing the disease.

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Can people who have been vaccinated still get mumps?

People who have had mumps vaccine are usually protected for life against mumps infection; however, it is not a guarantee. Many cases of mumps occur in previously immunized persons.

During mumps outbreaks in highly vaccinated communities, the proportion of cases that occur among people who have been vaccinated may be high. This should not be interpreted as meaning that the vaccine is ineffective. The way to assess the effectiveness of the vaccine is by comparing the attack rate in people who are vaccinated with the attack rate in those who have not been vaccinated. In outbreaks in highly vaccinated populations, the relatively few people who have not been vaccinated against mumps usually have a much greater mumps attack rate than those who have been fully vaccinated.

Do I need a third vaccine if I've already received two doses?

No. A third dose of the MMR vaccine will not offer additional protection against mumps.

If you have been diagnosed with mumps

Anyone diagnosed with mumps should stay home from school, work, or similar activities for five days. This means don’t attend class or labs, go to work, or socialize with others during this five-day period, and don’t use public transportation.

Prevent spreading the virus by: Staying home; covering your mouth and nose with a tissue when you cough or sneeze; washing your hands regularly with soap and water; and avoiding situations where you can spread the illness via saliva contact, such as sharing drinks, food, and utensils.

Soothe your symptoms by: Getting plenty of bed rest; taking over-the-counter pain killers such as Ibuprofen or Tylenol, to relieve any pain; drinking plenty of fluids; and applying a warm or cool compress to your swollen glands.