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Facts About...


What is it?

Mumps is a disease caused by a virus, which begins as an infection of the nose and throat but may spread through the blood to many parts of the body. Mumps was a major cause of viral meningitis prior to widespread use of the mumps vaccine.

Most people with mumps recover fully, however mumps can occasionally cause complications including temporary or permanent hearing loss, mumps encephalitis (swelling of the brain), infection of the testes in post pubertal males (sterility is rare), and the ovaries in females. Mumps can also cause meningitis, an infection of the fluid and lining that cover the brain and spinal cord. Mumps infection during the first trimester of pregnancy has been associated with a higher chance of miscarriage.

How is it spread?

The virus is spread from person to person by direct contact with nose or throat secretions from an infected person through sneezing, coughing, kissing, or sharing drinks. The virus can also be spread through indirect contact when someone with mumps touches items or surfaces without washing their hands and someone else then touches the same surface and rubs their mouth or nose. A person with mumps is able to spread the infection from 7 days before to 5 days after symptoms develop.

What do I look for?

Fever, swelling and tenderness of one or more of the salivary glands, usually the parotid glands (at the angle of the jaw) are common symptoms of mumps. Respiratory symptoms may also occur. Approximately 20 to 30% of mumps infections do not cause swelling of glands and don’t have any symptoms.

How is it treated?

There is no specific treatment for mumps. Supportive care including rest, fluids and pain relievers may be given.

How can I protect myself?

  • Mumps is best prevented by vaccination.
  • See Facts About…Measles, Mumps, Rubella Vaccine or Facts About...Measles, Mumps, Rubella, Varicella Vaccine.
  • Keep up to date with vaccinations and speak to your doctor/health care provider about your need for other vaccines.
  • Wash your hands thoroughly with soap and water or use hand sanitizer when hands are not visibly dirty.
  • Cough or sneeze into your elbow and encourage others to do the same.
  • Wash your hands after handling nose or throat discharges (i.e., after disposal of facial tissues containing nose and throat discharges).
  • Do not share water bottles, straws, eating utensils, cigarettes, toothbrushes, toys or anything else that has been in contact with saliva, nose or throat secretions.
  • If you are ill, stay at home and isolate yourself from others.

February 2015