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Information for Travelers on Mumps

Travelers Overview on Mumps

The risk of exposure to mumps among travelers can be high in most countries of the world, especially for travelers who are older than 12 months and who do not have evidence of mumps immunity.

Acceptable presumptive evidence of immunity to mumps for international travelers includes:

  • Documented administration of two doses of live mumps virus vaccine at least 28 days apart, on or after the first birthday
  • Laboratory evidence of immunity
  • Birth before 1957
  • Documentation of physician-diagnosed mumps

Although some countries have had variable successes with a national vaccination program—including Finland, which has declared elimination—the risk of contacting imported mumps in these countries is still a concern.

For more information on mumps and travel, see the mumps chapter from CDC’s Health Information for International Travel 2010 (the Yellow Book).

Travelers Questions and Answers on Mumps

boy carrying a suitcase

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

A: Although the risk of exposure to mumps for most travelers will be relatively low, you should make sure that you are fully vaccinated or immune. This is especially important if you plan to travel to states experiencing mumps outbreaks.

Here is what it takes to be fully vaccinated or immune:

  • All children who are12 months to 4 years of age should have had 1 dose of MMR or MMRV vaccine
  • All school-aged children (K-12) and students attending post-high school educational institutions should have had 2 doses of vaccine
  • Adults who live in or travel to an outbreak affected area should have at least 1 dose, unless you were diagnosed by a doctor with mumps earlier in life, or have laboratory evidence of immunity to mumps.
  • Most people born in the United States before 1957 had mumps and cannot get it again. If you don't know if you had vaccine or mumps in the past, vaccination with two doses of mumps-containing vaccine should be considered.

It takes about 2 weeks after vaccination before your body develops immunity to mumps. If you must travel to an affected area before you have immunity from vaccine, wash your hands frequently, do not share eating utensils or beverage containers, and avoid other sources of saliva from another person, such as from a person who is sneezing or coughing.

One dose of vaccine protects about 80% of the people who receive it. Two doses protect about 90%. Watch yourself carefully for signs of mumps (fever, headache, muscle aches, tiredness, and loss of appetite, followed by swelling of salivary glands). The parotid salivary glands (which are located within your cheek, near your jaw line, below your ears) are most often the ones that swell. See your health care provider if you develop these symptoms.

Q: Can mumps be spread on airplanes?

A: There may be some risk of getting sick from illnesses, such as mumps, during air travel that can be spread by mucus or droplets from the nose or throat of an infected person, usually when a person coughs or sneezes, but the risk of mumps transmission on an airplane is probably low.

Q: What can I do to protect myself from infection during air travel?

A: The most effective tool for preventing mumps is to be vaccinated with MMR or MMRV vaccine unless you have other evidence of immunity to mumps. Another important thing travelers can do to keep from getting sick is to wash their hands often and well with soap and water. Frequent hand washing washes away germs that may have been picked up from other people or from contaminated surfaces. If soap and water are not available, use an alcohol-based hand gel (with at least 60% alcohol).

Travelers who are sick can help prevent the spread of infection by not flying while they are ill. If travel is unavoidable, ill travelers should use tissues to cover their coughs and sneezes, wash their hands often, and avoid close contact with others.

For more information on mumps and travel, see the mumps chapter from CDC’s Health Information for International Travel 2010 (the Yellow Book).

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