Mumps was once a universal childhood illness until routine immunization with the MMR vaccine started in the 1960s. The mumps virus spreads in saliva and causes painful face swelling.
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Table of Contents for Mumps
How do you get mumps?
How many people get mumps every year?
What are the symptoms of mumps?
How soon do symptoms appear?
Can mumps cause death?
What are complications of mumps?
Is mumps contagious?
How is mumps treated?
Why do we use MMR instead of MMRV for mumps?
How effective is the mumps vaccine?
What is the immunization schedule for mumps?
What are mumps vaccine names?
Mumps is a contagious disease that is caused by a virus. The infection leads to puffy cheeks and a swollen jaw due to painful swelling of the glands that make saliva (spit).
The mumps virus spreads in saliva or mucous from the mouth, nose, and throat. People who are infected can spread mumps to other people by coughing, sneezing, talking, sharing eating utensils, or touching objects with unwashed hands that are touched by others.
From year to year, the number of people who get mumps in the United States ranges from a few hundred to a few thousand. For example, there were approximately 5,748 mumps cases in 2016, but only 229 cases in 2012.
Outbreaks are becoming more common in the U.S., although the number of cases is still far lower than before there was a vaccine. There were at least 186,000 cases of mumps per year before routine childhood immunization against mumps started in 1967.
People who are infected with mumps may not show symptoms for 2-4 weeks. Some people have very mild or no symptoms, and do not know they have the disease, but they are still contagious. Most people recover completely in a few weeks.
The symptoms of mumps include:
- Face pain
- Puffy cheeks
- Swollen jaw
- Muscle aches
- Loss of appetite
- Sore throat
- Swollen and tender salivary glands under the ears (one or both sides)
- Testical pain, lump, or scrotal swelling in males
The symptoms of mumps typically appear 16-18 days after infection, but the time ranges from 12-25 days after infection.
Yes. Mumps can cause encephalitis, which can result in death, although very rarely. Encephalitis is brain inflammation and severe cases can also cause permanent brain damage.
- Encephalitis (brain inflammation)
- Meningitis (spinal cord inflammation)
- Testicle inflammation that can lead to fertility problems
- Ovary inflammation
- Breast inflammation (mastitis)
Yes. Mumps is contagious before the salivary glands begin to swell, and up to 5 days after the swelling begins.
There is no cure for mumps and no medications to treat the virus. Therefore, treatment for mumps focuses on relieving symptoms until the body can fight off the infection, usually within a few weeks.
The treatments include bed rest, over-the-counter painkillers like ibuprofen, hydration, applying warm or cool compresses to swollen glands, and eating foods that do not require a lot of chewing like soup and eggs.
The vaccine against mumps is combined with vaccines against measles and mumps. All three diseases are preventable with the MMR vaccine (Measles-Mumps-Rubella). It is a mixture of live viruses that are attenuated, or weakened so they can’t cause infection.
The mumps vaccine (MMR) is given in two separate shots. Children who got the first shot of MMR with the Varicella vaccine (MMRV) have twice the risk of fever-induced seizures (about 1 in 1,250) than children who got separate shots of MMR and Varicella vaccines on the same day (about 1 in 2,500).
The mumps component of the MMR vaccine is about 88% effective (range of 66-95%) when a person gets two doses. One dose is about 78% effective (range of 49-92%) at preventing mumps.
MMR immunization against mumps should be given to children at these ages:
- 1st dose: 12-15 months old
- 2nd dose: 4-6 years old
These are the recommended ages, but children can get the second dose up through the age of 12 years old, so long as it is at least 3 months after the first dose.
Generally, adults over 18 years old who were born after 1956 should get at least one dose of the MMR vaccine. Children between the ages of 1 and 12 years old can also get a combination vaccine called MMRV that contains both MMR and Varicella (chickenpox) vaccines.
- M-M-R II® (MMR Vaccine)
- ProQuad® (MMRV Vaccine)
Yes. MMR vaccines can cause serious side effects like allergic reactions or death, but the risk is extremely small. Getting the MMR vaccine is much safer than getting mumps, measles, or rubella, especially now that outbreaks are becoming more common in the U.S.
Most people who get the MMR vaccine do not have any serious problems. The most common side effects are:
- Fever (1 in 6 people)
- Mild rash (1 out of 20 people)
- Swelling of glands in the cheeks or neck (1 out of 75 people)
- Seizure caused by fever (1 in 3,000 doses)
- Temporary pain and stiffness in the joints, mostly in teenagers or adults (up to 1 out of 4)
- Temporary low blood platelet count, which can cause a bleeding disorder (about 1 out of 30,000 doses)
- Serious allergic reaction (less than 1 out of a million doses)
Other severe side effects have been reported in children who got the MMR vaccine, such as deafness, long-term seizures, coma, lowered consciousness, and permanent brain damage. These side effects are so rare, it is hard to tell if they were caused by the vaccine.