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This fact sheet answers frequently asked questions about Mumps.

Mumps is a contagious illness caused by a virus.

The basics

How is mumps spread?

The virus that causes mumps lives in a person’s nose, mouth and throat. It spreads through the air to people close by when the infected person coughs or sneezes. Mumps can also spread by contact with infected secretions. People are most contagious 2 days before symptoms begin until 5 days after onset of disease. 

Who can get mumps? 

Mumps can affect any person of any age who has not had the disease or gotten the vaccine.

Is mumps dangerous?

Mumps is usually a mild illness. But, it can cause complications like meningitis, encephalitis, and swelling testicles in adult men. Rarely mumps may cause:

  • hearing loss
  • arthritis
  • swelling of the ovaries
  • breast swelling
  • heart or kidney problems

The virus may increase the risk of a miscarriage, especially within the first three months of pregnancy.


What are the symptoms of mumps?

The most common symptoms are a low-grade fever, headache, muscle pain, and swelling in the salivary glands. One out of three people with mumps will not have swollen salivary glands. Symptoms can appear 12 to 25 days after contact with an infected person (usually 16 to 18 days).


How do we stop the spread of mumps?

The best way to prevent mumps is to get vaccinated. If you or your child develops symptoms of mumps, call your healthcare provider. No one with mumps should go back to childcare, school, work, or other public places until 5 days after swelling of the salivary glands begins. Those who have been in contact with a person who has mumps should speak to their health care provider to make sure they are immune.


How is mumps diagnosed?

Mumps is often identified by its symptoms. you can confirm mumps with a blood test or a swab of the inside of the cheek. 

Is there a vaccine for mumps?

Yes. Health care providers recommend the mumps vaccine for children after 12 months of age with a second dose at 4 to 6 years of age. The mumps vaccine is often given in combination with the measles and rubella vaccine, called MMR. People born after 1956 who are unsure if they have had the disease or vaccine, should talk with their health care provider about getting vaccinated. Those who should not receive the MMR vaccine include:

  • pregnant women
  • those with a weakened immune system
  • those with a life-threatening allergy to neomycin, gelatin, or a previous dose of MMR
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