About Mumps

Key points

  • Mumps is a contagious viral infection that can be serious.
  • Common symptoms include painful swelling of the jaw, fever, tiredness, appetite loss, and headache.
  • Get vaccinated for mumps with the MMR vaccine, especially before travelling internationally.
doctor examining a girl's throat suffering from mumps

What it is

Mumps is a contagious disease caused by a virus that affects the salivary glands. Mumps is still a common disease in many countries, so it's important to get vaccinated to protect yourself. Most people with mumps recover completely within 2 weeks.

Signs and symptoms

People who are infected with mumps don’t get sick right away. It can take 2 to 4 weeks for them to show signs of infection.

Common signs of mumps are puffy cheeks and a tender, swollen jaw. This is caused by the swollen salivary glands under one or both ears. Early symptoms can begin a few days before the swelling. The most serious complication is brain inflammation of the brain.

Some people who have been vaccinated against mumps can still get the disease. However, they usually have milder symptoms and complications are less frequent.

Who is at risk

Anyone who is not protected against mumps is at risk of getting the disease.

Some groups of people have a higher likelihood of spreading disease because they are constantly in close contact with each other. These include school-aged children, students at post-high school educational institutions, and healthcare personnel.

People traveling internationally to areas where mumps is still common, or people near outbreaks, are also more likely to get mumps.

How it spreads

Alert others if you are infected with mumps!‎‎

Let your doctor know right away if you think you or someone in your family may have mumps. Limit your contact with others for up to 5 days after swelling begins. Stay home from school, work, and do not attend social events.

Mumps is a contagious disease caused by the mumps virus. It spreads through direct contact with saliva or respiratory droplets from the mouth, nose, or throat.

You can get mumps and spread the virus by:

  • Coughing, sneezing, or talking.
  • Sharing items that may have saliva on them, such as water bottles or cups.
  • Participating in close-contact activities with others, like playing sports, dancing, or kissing.

When people are contagious

A person infected with mumps can spread it:

  • Beginning a few days before their salivary glands begin to swell.
  • Until up to 5 days after swelling begins.


Protect yourself with the vaccine. Getting two doses of the mumps vaccine is the best protection against mumps. It's usually given as a combination vaccine called measles, mumps, and rubella (MMR) vaccine, which protects against all three diseases. Your child’s doctor may also offer the MMRV vaccine, a combination vaccine that protects against measles, mumps, rubella, and varicella (chickenpox).

After the U.S. mumps vaccination program started in 1967, there has been a more than 99% decrease in mumps cases in the United States.

Keep Reading: Mumps Vaccination