Mumps is a contagious disease caused by a virus. It spreads through saliva or mucus from the mouth, nose, or throat. An infected person can spread the virus by
- coughing, sneezing, or talking,
- sharing items, such as cups or eating utensils, with others, and
- touching objects or surfaces with unwashed hands that are then touched by others.
Mumps likely spreads before the salivary glands begin to swell and up to five days after the swelling begins.
Mumps is best known for the puffy cheeks and swollen jaw that it causes. This is a result of swollen salivary glands.
The most common symptoms include:
- Muscle aches
- Loss of appetite
- Swollen and tender salivary glands under the ears on one or both sides (parotitis)
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 or no symptoms, and often they do not know they have the disease.
Most people with mumps recover completely in a few weeks.
In some years, there are more cases of mumps than usual because of 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, lipstick or cigarettes, might increase spread of the virus.
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. The MMR vaccine protects against currently circulating mumps strains. 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.
Although it is not mandatory to report mumps outbreaks to CDC, many health departments will contact CDC when they experience an unusually high number of cases. In 2015 and 2016, 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, lack of previous exposure to wild-type virus, and the intensity of the exposure setting (such as a college campus) coupled with behaviors that increase the risk of transmission.
Signs & Symptoms: https://www.cdc.gov/mumps/about/signs-symptoms.html
For information about how to prevent mumps from spreading, see Outbreak-Related Questions and Answers for Patients.