1. How is mumps most commonly transmitted?
  2. How does mumps commonly manifest in children younger than 5 years of age?
  3. About how many days should someone with mumps expect to be out of work?
  4. Why are mumps outbreaks occurring on college campuses?

All of the answers can be found in the article that follows.

Since the beginning of March, mumps has been reported in multiple states with many of the cases being reported on college campuses. By March 4, 2016, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) had reports of 250 cases — more than during all of 2012. So, we thought it was a good time for a refresher.

Transmission

Mumps virus spreads by sneezing, coughing or exposure to the saliva of an infected person. Once inhaled, large droplets containing the virus infect the upper respiratory tract.

Contagiousness

Mumps is not as contagious as measles, but will still infect slightly more than half of susceptible people once exposed. Mumps level of contagiousness

Symptoms

Mumps is typically associated with swollen parotid glands which occur in 60 to 70 percent of cases and more commonly occur bilaterally, but can appear unilaterally. The swollen glands tend to appear about 16 to 18 days after exposure and can be preceded by non-specific symptoms, such as fever, headache, malaise, myalgia and anorexia. Children younger than 5 years of age often experience symptoms typical of lower respiratory disease; adults are more likely to have asymptomatic infections.

Mumps virus can also infect the adenoids (10 percent), epididymis and testes (25 percent of post-pubertal men), ovaries (5 percent of post-pubertal women) and pancreas (4 percent). About half of those infected will have increased numbers of white blood cells in cerebrospinal fluid, but suffer no related symptoms (so-called asymptomatic, aseptic meningitis). Up to 10 percent of those infected will have aseptic meningitis, and 4 percent will experience deafness, albeit often transient. Impaired renal function may occur in 30 to 60 percent of those infected, and abnormal electrocardiograms are found in 5 to 15 percent.

Length of typical infection

People with mumps typically have fever for up to six days and swollen glands for 10 or more days. When studied, the average days of work lost were about seven. 

Mumps disease timeline

Complications

Complications resulting from mumps are more common in adults than children. One of the most common complications is orchitis, which occurs in 3 or 4 of every 10 men with mumps. Women with mumps may experience mastitis and pelvic pain, and pregnant women who are infected during the first trimester are more likely to miscarry. Other complications that occur more rarely include pancreatitis, meningoencephalitis, deafness, nephritis, arthropathy and heart-related abnormalities.

Mumps vaccine

The mumps vaccine, a live weakened virus, is represented by the second “M” in MMR. Children typically receive the first dose at about 1 year of age and a second dose at about the time of school entry. Of the three components in the MMR vaccine, the mumps component provides the weakest level of protection with one dose protecting only 7 or 8 of every 10 vaccine recipients; the second dose increases protection to 8 or 9 of every 10 vaccine recipients. Because immunity wanes and the disease tends to spread more easily in close quarters, outbreaks are common on college campuses as has occurred this year.

Resources

Vaccine mobile app

The images in this article are from the VEC’s free mobile app, Vaccines on the Go: What You Should Know. If you have a smart phone or iPad, download the app today for quick access to these types of images for mumps and other vaccine-preventable diseases when talking with patients and families. The app also links to our videos and print materials.

The app also provides patients and families with quick access to reliable vaccine information anytime and anywhere and as well as an easy way to send their questions about vaccines to the VEC. Encourage families to download it by displaying these free posters [PDF, 197KB]. Order as many posters as you need using the online or printable [PDF, 113KB] order forms.

CDC's outbreak page

The CDC has a mumps outbreak page that shows the number of annual cases over several years, and an outbreak-related question and answer page for patients

Materials in this section are updated as new information and vaccines become available. The Vaccine Education Center staff regularly reviews materials for accuracy.

You should not consider the information in this site to be specific, professional medical advice for your personal health or for your family's personal health. You should not use it to replace any relationship with a physician or other qualified healthcare professional. For medical concerns, including decisions about vaccinations, medications and other treatments, you should always consult your physician or, in serious cases, seek immediate assistance from emergency personnel.