What is the mumps?

  • Mumps is a viral illness that, because most people have now been vaccinated, is now a rare disease in the United States.

How does a child get the mumps?

  • Mumps is spread by direct contact with mucus or droplets from the nose or throat of an infected person, usually when a person coughs or sneezes.
  • Surfaces of items (e.g. toys) can also spread the virus if someone who is sick touches them without washing their hands, and someone else then touches the same surface and then rubs their eyes, mouth, nose etc.

How long will it take my child to become ill after being exposed to someone else with the mumps?

  • Remember, just because your child is exposed to an ill person does not necessarily mean they too will become ill.
  • But if your child is to become ill, it usually takes 16 to 18 days (range 12 – 25 days) after exposure.

What are the signs and symptoms of the mumps in children?

  • Of those people who do get mumps, up to half have very mild, or no symptoms, and therefore do not know they were infected with mumps.

The most common symptoms are:

  • fever
  • headache
  • muscle aches
  • tiredness
  • loss of appetite
  • followed by onset of parotitis (swollen and tender parotid salivary glands under the ears – on one or both sides).

Are there any serious complications from having the mumps?

Although complications are rare, occasionally they do occur and can be serious.

Mumps can cause:

  • inflammation of the brain and/or tissue covering the brain and spinal cord (encephalitis/meningitis)
  • inflammation of the testicles (orchitis) if puberty has been reached
  • inflammation of the ovaries and/or breasts (oophoritis and mastitis) if puberty has been reached
  • spontaneous abortion
  • deafness, usually permanent

How can the mumps be diagnosed?

  • The mumps is diagnosed based on the child’s symptoms and physical examination as well as laboratory testing.
  • The mumps virus may be found by testing saliva, urine, or spinal fluid; blood tests can also confirm infection or vaccination.

What is the treatment for the mumps?

When can my child return to daycare or school?

  • A person with the mumps is considered contagious from 3 days before symptoms appear to about 9 days after the symptoms appear.
  • Therefore, children should be held out from day care or school for 9 days after the onset of parotid swelling.

When should I call my pediatrician concerning the mumps in my child?

  • It is best to call for specific instructions when you first suspect that your child has the mumps or has been exposed to someone else that has the mumps.
  • You should also call your doctor if your child has had fever for more than two to three days, has a stiff neck or has pain in the testicle or breast area.

How can the mumps be prevented?

If my child is exposed to someone with mumps, what should I do?

  • Remember, not everyone who is exposed to someone with mumps will get sick.
  • If a person has been vaccinated with two doses of mumps vaccine, it is very unlikely they will get mumps.
  • However, if a person hasn’t been vaccinated, it is possible they could get sick and they should watch for symptoms of mumps, as described above.
  • Additionally, if a person hasn’t been vaccinated, this is a good time to get another dose of mumps vaccine, and to make sure that everyone else in the house where they live is also vaccinated.
  • Mumps vaccine has not been shown to be effective in preventing disease after exposure, but vaccination of exposed susceptible persons will reduce the risk of disease from possible future exposures.

What is known about the recent Mumps outbreak in the Midwest?

  • A total of 5,824 confirmed cases of mumps were reported between January 1 and October 14, 2006 in the United States.
  • Seven states accounted for the majority of cases: Iowa had the highest number followed by Kansas, Wisconsin, Illinois, Nebraska, South Dakota, and Missouri.
  • In this outbreak, most cases were among persons aged 18-24 years; some colleges in these states experienced outbreaks.
  • No deaths were reported.

Why is this outbreak occurring?

  • According to the CDC director, “The problem here is with the lack of complete coverage of the vaccine, number one. Our vaccine program for mumps began in 1967, but just by nature, there is a group of students, roughly college-age students, who may be less likely to have received both doses of the mumps vaccine and are incompletely vaccinated.”"Therefore, they are susceptible when infection is introduced, and they have a very high chance of getting mumps under those environments.  About 10 percent of people who get both doses of the vaccine still remain [susceptible] to mumps.”
  • According to data from the 7 most affected states, 4% of cases were not vaccinated, 20% only received one dose, 46% received two doses and in 30% of cases vaccination status could not be determined.
  • Remember, mumps can occur in 5-10% of individuals who receive 2 doses of vaccination.

What should I do if I plan to travel to a state affected by a mumps outbreak?

  • Although the risk of exposure to mumps for most travelers will be relatively low, you should make sure that you are fully vaccinated.
  • This is especially important if you plan to attend graduations or other events in states experiencing mumps outbreaks.