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Mumps: What you need to know

Mumps is a viral illness that can cause fever, body aches, headaches, fatigue, swelling of the salivary glands, or pain with chewing and swallowing. About a third of people who contract the mumps virus do not develop any symptoms.

Mumps is most commonly spread when an infected person coughs, sneezes, or talks and a non-infected person inhales respirator droplets that contain the virus. Most mumps cases do not lead to serious complications. 

What to watch for

  • Swollen glands in front of and below the ear or under the jaw
  • Fever
  • Headache
  • Earache
  • Among males, mumps can lead to painful swelling of the testicles
  • Among women, mumps can lead to swelling of the ovaries, which may cause abdominal pain, or swelling of the breasts

What you can do

To prevent mumps:

  • Get up to date on your MMR vaccine
  • Cover your cough or sneeze
  • Wash your hands frequently with soap and water

If you become infected with mumps:

  • Contact your medical provider 
  • Stay at home for five days after symptoms begin
  • Cover your cough or sneeze
  • Wash your hands frequently with soap and water

Anyone who experiences the symptoms listed above should contact their health care provider immediately. 

Who is at risk?

People at highest risk are those who have not received any doses of the MMR vaccine and those who have received only one dose of the MMR vaccine. To check your immunization status, or to get vaccinated, please contact your medical provider. 

A major factor contributing to outbreaks is being in a crowded environment, such as attending the same class, playing on the same sports team, or living in a dormitory with a person who has mumps. 

What our experts say

Michael Cooperstock, MD

“Although some people with mumps experience mild or no symptoms at all, the most common indication of the disease is swelling under the angle of the jaw as a result of swollen salivary glands,” said Michael Cooperstock, MD, medical director of University of Missouri Health Care’s Infection Control Department. “Other typical symptoms include fever, headache, muscle aches, tiredness and loss of appetite. Symptoms usually appear two to three weeks after infection and can last up to two weeks until complete recovery.”