Helpful information regarding mumps


What is mumps? It is a contagious disease caused by the mumps virus. Most often is it a mild to moderate self-limited disease. Severe complications are rare.

How is the virus spread? Mumps is spread by close contact, typically by droplets of saliva or mucus from the mouth, nose or throat of an infected person, usually when a person coughs or sneezes. Mumps can also spread when items used by an infected person have been contaminated by saliva or mucus, such as eating utensils, drinks or lip balm. The Mumps virus does not spread as easily as Influenza virus.

Do I need a booster shot for mumps? While a booster shot might be recommended in unique situations, those who have been vaccinated typically do not need this. The mumps vaccine (2 MMR shots) is given during childhood. JMU students are required to have had either 2 doses of this vaccine, a blood test that proves immunity, or a signed religious waiver for not getting the vaccine. If you did not sign a waiver and the JMU Health center has not contacted you about your immunizations then you can be sure that you received 2 doses of the vaccine which provides about 90% of those vaccinated with immunity. Also, if you have already been exposed, a booster will not help since it takes 2 weeks for the immunity benefit from the booster. If a vaccinated individual does contract mumps, it is expected that the illness will be less severe of shorter duration.

How can I limit my exposure? Since it is spread by droplets of saliva or mucus, you need to minimize your exposure to these secretions. Avoid others who have fever, cough, sneezing, and especially swelling of the salivary gland(s). Wash your hands regularly or use hand sanitizer. Do not share eating utensils or beverage containers.

What are the symptoms of mumps? The most common signs and symptoms of mumps include fever, headache, muscle aches, fatigue, and swelling and tenderness of one or more salivary glands under the ears or jaw on one or both sides of the face.  Symptoms of a cold such as sore throat, runny or stuffy nose, or cough are typically NOT present. About one in three persons infected with mumps virus do not have any signs or symptoms of illness. Testicle swelling may occur but rarely results in sterility.

When do symptoms appear? Signs and symptoms of mumps usually appear 16 to 18 days (with a range of 12-25 days) after exposure.

How long is someone able to spread the disease? Mumps is contagious from two days before until five days after the onset of salivary gland swelling.

What is the treatment for mumps? Supportive care to relieve symptoms may include applying intermittent ice or heat to the affected neck area, and pain relievers (e.g., acetaminophen or ibuprofen).  Warm salt water gargles, soft foods, and extra fluids may also help. Avoid fruit juice or acidic foods, since these stimulate the salivary glands thereby causing pain.

Published: Monday, November 6, 2017

Last Updated: Monday, February 26, 2018

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