General Information

Mumps is a contagious viral infection caused by the mumps virus. Mumps is a highly contagious viral infection of the salivary glands that most commonly affects children. Before the mumps vaccination became routine in North America, it was a well-known common childhood disease characterized by swelling of the salivary glands, situated below and in front of the ears. Complications of mumps, such as hearing loss, are potentially serious, but rare. Outbreaks still occur sporadically in developed countries, especially in areas with poor vaccine uptakes. Anyone who is not immune from either previous mumps infection or from vaccination can get mumps.

The virus can live on contaminated surfaces, such as environmental surfaces (door knobs, faucets handles, light switches) or personal items (cups, utensils, cell phones) for hours or days. These surfaces can spread the virus to those who are not immune, especially if they share these items or touch contaminated surfaces and then touch their eyes, nose or mouth. Environmental surfaces should be cleaned properly using a disinfectant that is effective against enveloped viruses.

Symptoms and Transmission

Mumps typically starts with a few days of fever, headache, muscle aches, tiredness, and loss of appetite, and is followed by swelling of salivary gland, which can often be painful. Symptoms may be more severe in adults. Other symptoms of mumps can include dry mouth, sore face and/or ears and occasionally in more serious cases, loss of voice. In addition, up to 20% of persons infected with the mumps virus do not show symptoms, so it is possible to be infected and spread the virus without knowing it.

Mumps is spread by droplets of saliva or mucus from the mouth, nose, or throat of an infected person, usually when the person coughs, sneezes, or talks. Due to the size of the mumps virus, the viral particles may become airborne which can be breathed in by another person. Anyone who is not immune from either previous mumps infection or vaccination can get mumps.

Items used by an infected person, such as glasses or cups, or items mouthed by infants, such as toys, can also be contaminated with the virus, which may spread to others if those items are shared. In addition, the virus may spread 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.

Most mumps transmission likely occurs before the salivary glands begin to swell. Incubation period ranges from 12-25 days with an average being 16-18 days. Persons with mumps are considered most infectious from 1-2 days before until 5 days after the salivary glands begin to swell. The CDC recommends isolating mumps patients for 5 days after their glands begin to swell.


In general, you’re considered immune to mumps if you’ve previously had the infection or if you’ve been immunized against mumps.

The mumps vaccine is the best way to prevent mumps. This vaccine is included in the combination measles-mumps-rubella (MMR) or measles-mumps-rubella-varicella (MMRV) vaccines.

To help prevent the transmission of mumps:Minimize close contact with those who are infected

  • Ensure those who are infected stay home from work or school, and limit contact with others

  • Wash and sanitize hands regularly

  • Cover your mouth and nose with a tissue when you cough or sneeze, and put your used tissues in the trash can. If you do not have a tissue, cough or sneeze into your upper sleeve or elbow, not your hands

  • Don’t share drinks or eating utensils

  • Regularly clean surfaces that are frequently touched (toys, door knobs, tables, counters) with an EPA registered disinfectant


There is no specific treatment for mumps. Symptoms may be relieved by the application of ice or heat to the affected areas and acetaminophen for pain relief. Warm saltwater gargles, soft food, and extra fluids may also help relieve symptoms.