Mumps is a contagious viral illness caused by the paramyxovirus, which primarily attacks the salivary glands. Although it is usually a mild childhood disease, it can sometimes cause other serious complications, especially in adults.

What are the symptoms of Mumps?

mumps immunizationMumps symptoms begin between 12 and 25 days after exposure to the virus. The most common symptom is painful swelling of the salivary glands below the ears. The swelling is noticeable and will be on one or both sides of the face near the jaw line. Other symptoms include fever, headache, muscle aches, tiredness, and loss of appetite. Up to 30 percent of people who are infected with Mumps show very mild or no symptoms.

Mumps can cause serious complications in some people. About 25 percent of adult males who have Mumps will experience testicular inflammation. In adult women, about 5 percent will experience swollen ovaries or breasts. Women who are infected with Mumps in their first trimester of pregnancy face an increased risk of miscarriage. In rare cases, Mumps can cause viral meningitis, an inflammation of the tissues surrounding the brain and spinal cord.

How can I get Mumps?

You can get Mumps by coming into contact with the saliva of an infected person – for example when you breathe in droplets when someone sneezes or coughs. You can also get it by kissing someone, or sharing their eating and drinking utensils. You can also get Mumps if you touch a surface contaminated with the virus and then touch your mouth or nose.

People are most likely to spread the Mumps virus from two days before and five days after their salivary glands begin to swell.

Where can I get Mumps?

Mumps occurs worldwide. Only 59 percent of countries belonging to the World Health Organization have immunization programs for Mumps. Cases are reported throughout the year, and epidemics occur every two to five years. Your risk of getting Mumps increases if you travel in countries where Mumps is endemic.

What vaccines are available for Mumps?

Since 1983, children born in Canada have received the Mumps vaccine as part of the Measles-Mumps-rubella (MMR) immunization. Children get the MMR vaccine in two doses, the first around age one and the second around age five. Children who will be travelling to Mumps-endemic areas can receive their first dose of MMR as early as six months of age.

If you have not been immunized for Mumps you should consider vaccination if you are:

  • Planning travel to Mumps-endemic areas.
  • A women of childbearing age who is not pregnant.
  • A health care or childcare worker.

If you are pregnant you should not get the vaccine because it contains a weakened version of live rubella virus which could pose a risk to your unborn child. While you are pregnant, you should avoid anyone who has rubella and get vaccinated after your child is born.

If you are thinking about becoming pregnant and don’t know if you’ve been immunized you can get a blood test from your doctor that checks for antibodies. If you’re not immune, you should get vaccinated at least one month before you become pregnant.

How many shots will I need?

In British Columbia, it is recommended that people born after 1956 get two doses of the vaccine. This is especially important for travelers and health care workers.

Will I need a booster?

If you have had two doses of the MMR vaccine you will not need a booster.

How can I prevent Mumps?

Vaccination is the best way to prevent Mumps. If you have not been vaccinated or have not have Mumps, avoid personal contact with anyone who has Mumps. Practice normal precautions that prevent the spread of infectious diseases:

  • Wash your hands with soap and water thoroughly and often.
  • Keep alcohol-based hand sanitizers available for times when it is not convenient to wash your hands.
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth.
  • Keep shared surfaces clean and disinfected.
  • Don’t share personal items such as utensils or drinks.

What is the treatment for Mumps

Because Mumps is caused by a virus, it is not treated with antibiotics. In most cases, people recover from Mumps with rest and care at home. You should stay home for at least five days after your glands swell.

In complicated cases, a hospital stay may be required. Call your doctor if you have symptoms of Mumps, or if you have had close contact with someone who has Mumps.