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Diseases : Mumps


 What is mumps?

Mumps is an acute viral illness that can be prevented by vaccination. Before routine vaccination for mumps was introduced, mumps was a common infection in infants, children and young adults.

Because most people in Ontario have now been vaccinated, the annual number of mumps cases reported is very low, about 20 cases per year. Forty-seven percent of mumps cases reported from 2000 to 2005 were in children less than 15 years of age. The 2005-06 mumps outbreaks in the United States and Nova Scotia are mainly affecting adolescents and young adults.

 What are the symptoms of mumps?

Symptoms of mumps include:

  • Painful swelling of one or both salivary glands (located within your cheek, near your jaw line, below your ears), called parotitis
  • Fever
  • Headache
  • Muscle aches and pains
  • Tiredness
  • Loss of appetite

Up to 20% of persons infected with the mumps virus do not have symptoms, 30% to 40% develop parotitis and about 40% to 50% of infected persons have nonspecific or mainly respiratory symptoms (symptoms similar to a cold).

 What are the complications of mumps?

Complications from mumps infection can include meningitis (inflammation of the brain and spinal cord), orchitis (swelling of the testicles), oophoritis (swelling of the ovaries), pancreatitits, or hearing loss. Infection in women in the first trimester of pregnancy can result in spontaneous abortion.

How is mumps spread?

Mumps is a contagious disease that is spread from person-to-person through direct contact with respiratory droplets from the mouth or nose of an infected person. When an infected person coughs or sneezes, these droplets enter the nose or mouth of another person. Mumps can also be spread through saliva, sharing drinks and kissing. The virus can also survive on surfaces. Touching these surfaces and then touching your nose or mouth can also result in infection.

Once you come into contact with mumps, it takes 14 - 25 days for symptoms to develop (symptoms usually develop in about two weeks). A person with mumps is able to spread infection from 7 days before to 9 days after symptoms develop. However, people infected with mumps who do not develop swelling of the salivary glands or other symptoms can also spread the virus.

 What should I do if I think that my child or I have mumps?

If you suspect that you or your child has mumps, please contact a doctor. Please call ahead to let the doctor know you are coming and that you suspect mumps. The doctor can then take precautions in their office.

Since other viruses or bacteria can cause symptoms that are similar to mumps, it is necessary to confirm the diagnosis through blood, saliva, throat and/or urine samples.

 What can be done to prevent the spread of mumps?

While you are infectious to others (3 days before to 9 days after the onset of symptoms), do not go back to childcare, school, work or other public places.
It is important to avoid contact with infants (children less than one year of age) or others who are not immune to mumps through vaccination or past infection, especially pregnant women and individuals with a weakened immune system.

Washing your hands well and often with soap can also prevent the spread of mumps and other infections. Sharing of eating utensils should be avoided and objects and surfaces that are frequently touched (toys, counters, doorknobs, phones, etc) should be regularly cleaned with soap and water or other cleaning agents.

Is there a treatment for mumps?

There is no specific treatment for this mumps. Acetaminophen (e.g., Tempra® or Tylenol®) as well as hot or cold compresses may relieve the pain in the salivary glands.

If I had mumps as a child, can I get mumps again?

If you had mumps as a child you are likely immune. A very small number of people could get re-infected with mumps. Their illness is usually mild.

Mumps can be prevented with immunization.

Mumps can be prevented with a vaccine. Mumps vaccine is given in the same shot with measles and rubella. This combined vaccine is called the MMR vaccine. The MMR vaccine is part of the routine vaccinations available free to all children in Ontario. The first dose of MMR vaccine is given at 12 months of age and a second dose is now given at 18 months of age. Before 2005, the second dose of MMR was given at 4 to 6 years of age.

Adults, who have not had mumps or have never been vaccinated with a mumps-containing vaccine, can be vaccinated as well.

People traveling to areas where mumps outbreaks are occurring should follow the recommendations for that area regarding the need for a second dose of mumps -containing vaccine.

Is the mumps vaccine effective?

One dose of mumps vaccine (given as MMR (measles, mumps, rubella) vaccine) will provide immunity in approximately 80% of people vaccinated, while two doses of mumps vaccine will provide immunity in 90% of people vaccinated.

Is the MMR vaccine safe?

Yes, the MMR vaccine is very safe and effective. Most children will have no side effects, however, mild redness, swelling and pain at the injection site may occur. MMR vaccine can cause a rash and/or fever in some children five to 12 days after the needle is given. This may last for a few days. Allergic reactions to the MMR vaccine and other serious reactions are rare.

The vaccine is safe for household members of people with serious immune system problems and household members of pregnant women. Breastfeeding women can receive the MMR vaccine.

You should always discuss the benefits and risks of any vaccine with your doctor, nurse practitioner or public health nurse.

 Who should not have MMR vaccine?


The following children and adults should not have MMR vaccine:

  • anyone who is allergic to neomycin or gelatin
  • anyone who has had a severe allergic reaction to a prior dose of this vaccine
  • anyone whose immune system is severely impaired
  • women should not be vaccinated if they are pregnant and should not become pregnant within one month after getting the MMR vaccine
  • anyone who is ill with a fever or infection worse than a cold should put off getting the shot until they are well again.

Receiving antibody-containing products (e.g., immune globulin, whole or packed red blood cells) may interfere with the mumps vaccine. MMR vaccine should be given at least two weeks before or at least 3 months following administration of any antibody-containing product.

If you think that you or your child is in any of these groups, please talk to your doctor or local public health unit.

 Where can I get the MMR vaccine?

The MMR vaccine is publicly funded and available at your doctor's office. If you do not have a family doctor, call your local public health unit for information on immunization clinics.

 Your record of protection

After your child receives any immunization, make sure his/her personal immunization record (sometimes called the Yellow Card) is updated. Keep your records in a safe place. You may be asked to show this record of immunization when your child registers for school or daycare.

May 2007

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