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Mumps is a contagious viral infection that can cause painful swelling of the salivary glands, especially the parotid glands (between the ear and the jaw). Some people with mumps won't have gland swelling. They may feel like they have a bad cold or the flu instead.
Mumps usually goes away on its own in about 10 days. But in some cases, it can cause complications that affect the brain (meningitis), the testicles (orchitis), the ovaries (oophoritis), or the pancreas (pancreatitis).
The mumps vaccine protects against the illness. This vaccine is part of the MMR (measles, mumps, and rubella) and MMRV (measles, mumps, rubella, and varicella [chickenpox]) vaccines. Most children get the vaccine as part of their regular shots. Before the mumps vaccine existed, mumps was a common childhood disease in Canada and the United States.
Mumps is spread when an infected person coughs or sneezes near you or shares food or drinks.
You can spread the virus 7 days before and for 9 days after symptoms start. You are most likely to spread the virus 1 to 2 days before and 5 days after symptoms start.
Symptoms may include:
It usually takes 2 to 3 weeks to get symptoms after you have been exposed to the virus. This is called the incubation period. Some people who are infected with the mumps virus don't have any symptoms.
If you have more serious symptoms, such as a stiff neck or a severe headache, painful testicles, or severe belly pain, call your doctor right away.
Mumps is usually diagnosed based on symptoms and a history of exposure to the virus. If needed, a blood test can be done to confirm that you have mumps and rule out other illnesses.
The mumps virus can be identified with a viral culture using a sample of urine, saliva, or cerebrospinal fluid. These tests are rarely done.
If you think that you or your child has mumps, be sure to call ahead and explain the symptoms before you go to a doctor's office. It's important to stay away from other people as much as you can so that you don't spread the disease.
In most cases, people recover from mumps with rest and care at home. In complicated cases, a hospital stay may be required.
If you or your child has mumps:
Anyone who has mumps should stay out of school, daycare, work, and public places until 5 days after the salivary glands first start to swell.footnote 1, footnote 2
In general, you don't need to separate the sick person from the rest of the family. By the time mumps is diagnosed, most household members have already been exposed.
Getting your child vaccinated is important, because mumps can sometimes cause serious problems. It's also important because mumps is a contagious disease, and outbreaks can easily occur.
False claims in the news have made some parents concerned about a link between autism and vaccines. But studies have found no link between them.footnote 3
CitationsCenters for Disease Control and Prevention (2008). Updated recommendations for isolation of persons with mumps. MMWR, 57(40): 1103–1105. Also available online: http://www.cdc.gov/mmwr/preview/mmwrhtml/mm5740a3.htm?s_cid=mm5740a3_e.Alberta Health and Wellness (2011). Public health notifiable disease management guidelines: Mumps. Available online: http://www.health.alberta.ca/professionals/notifiable-diseases-guide.html.Taylor LE, et al. (2014). Vaccines are not associated with autism: An evidence-based meta-analysis of case-control and cohort studies. Vaccines, 32(29): 3623–3629.
Adaptation Date: 2/24/2020
Adapted By: Alberta Health Services
Adaptation Reviewed By: Alberta Health Services
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