Mumps Disease

What is mumps?

  • Mumps (also known as epidemic parotitis) is a contagious viral disease that can infect people of any age.
  • It is more common in school-aged children and young adults.
  • One of the main symptoms is swelling of the glands in the cheeks and jaw. The swelling is caused by an infection of the salivary glands.

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How can I get mumps?

  • Mumps is not common in Canada due to high vaccination rates.
  • The virus that causes mumps disease spread through the air when an infected person coughs or sneezes. You can also become infected through direct contact with the
    saliva of an infected person. The most common contact is through kissing or sharing items such as food, drinks, cigarettes, and water bottles with the infected person.
  • Mumps virus can spread for about 7 days before symptoms appear and for at least 5 days afterwards.

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Who is at risk of getting mumps?

  • Most people born before 1970 are likely to be protected from mumps.
  • People at risk include anyone born in 1970 or later who:
    • has not received 2 doses of mumps vaccine
    • who has never had mumps disease
  • Infants under the age of 12 months are most at risk because the vaccination is not given until children are 12 months of age or older.
  • Immunization on older children and adults helps prevent infants.

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Who is most at risk for complications from mumps?

  • Mumps can cause serious complications (problems) in:
    • Infants under 1 year of age
    • Pregnant women in their first trimester, as they may have a miscarriage
  • People who have problems with their immune system may have difficulty fighting off the infection.
  • Infection in adults is more likely to be severe. Death resulting from mumps and its complications – while rare – occurs most often in adults.

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Can I get mumps more than once?

  • No. People who have had mumps are generally protected for life.

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How do I know if I have mumps?

  • Some people with mumps have no symptoms at all. However, they are still infectious and can spread the disease to other people.
  • More commonly, symptoms start about 16-18 days after contact with the infected person. At this time, they are very non-specific and may include:
    • headache
    • dry mouth
    • tiredness
    • loss of appetite
  • These symptoms may last for a couple of days. The person is considered contagious at this time and can spread the infection to others. Next, the infected person may develop an earache and pain upon opening the mouth. A day or so later, swelling of the cheeks and jaw appears. The swelling lasts for 2 or more days.
  • The person is considered infectious for at least 5 days after the swelling appears.

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If I have contact with the infection, how long does it take to get mumps?

  • Symptoms (fever, swelling and tenderness of the salivary gland) can appear from 12-25 days after contact with someone who is infected with mumps.
  • Usually the symptoms appear in 16-18 days.

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What can happen if I get mumps?

  • Most people who get mumps are sick for up to 10 days and then recover completely. Symptoms are more severe for infants and adults.
  • Complications of mumps include:
    • pneumonia (lung infection)
    • meningitis (swelling/ inflammation of the membrane around the brain and spinal cord)
    • encephalitis (swelling/inflammation of the brain)
    • middle ear infections
    • seizures and convulsions
    • deafness – which is usually temporary
    • painful swelling of the testicles in teenage boys and men
    • painful swelling of the ovaries in women and girls
  • Pregnant women who develop mumps in the first 3 months of their pregnancy can have a miscarriage.
  • Mumps disease does not cause birth defects.

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How is mumps diagnosed?

  • Mumps can be diagnosed by the common signs and symptoms. However, as mumps is now uncommon in Canada, it is important to confirm each infection with lab tests ordered by a doctor.
  • These lab tests include:
    • blood samples
    • a urine sample
    • a swab of the inside of your cheek

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How is mumps treated?

  • There is no specific treatment for mumps.
  • The disease is caused by a virus, and not bacteria; therefore, antibiotics will not help. Supportive care in hospital may be needed for severe infections, but most people can recover at home.
  • If you think you have mumps, call your doctor’s office. Tell them about your symptoms and that you have may have been exposed to mumps disease. The office needs to arrange appropriate infection control measures for the time of your appointment so that the infection is not passed to others.
  • Someone who has mumps should stay home from daycare, pre-school, school, or work for 5 days after the swelling develops.

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What can I do to prevent mumps?

  • People born before 1970 are generally considered protected from mumps disease.
  • Everyone else should have at least 1 dose of the mumps vaccine, given after his or her first birthday.
  • For full protection against mumps, 2 doses of vaccine are required.
  • Children should have both doses of mumps vaccine by 4 - 6 years of age.
  • People born 1970-1990 may have only received one dose of mumps vaccine and should check their immunization records. A second dose of vaccine should be considered for added protection. Discuss with your health care provider.
  • Do not share saliva with others through kissing or sharing food, drinks, cigarettes, water bottles or musical instruments. When you cough and sneeze, cover your mouth and nose with a tissue, or use your sleeve.
  • Always Wash Your Hands after coughing or sneezing.

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What can I do if I come into contact with someone who has mumps?

  • If you come into contact with someone who has mumps, call your doctor.
  • If you have never received the mumps vaccine you may be excluded from school, daycare, work or group activities.
  • Getting the vaccine after an exposure to someone with the disease will not prevent infection. However, mumps vaccine is recommended after exposure to provide protection against future exposures.

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Who can I call for more information?

  • For more information about your exposure to mumps or mumps immunization, talk to your health care provider or Contact Us.

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