What is mumps?

Mumps is caused by a virus that affects salivary glands located in front of the ears and below the jaw causing puffy cheeks and swollen jaw. Infection can occur on one or both sides. In recent years there have been mumps outbreaks on college campuses, including Purdue.

 What are the symptoms of mumps?

Symptoms of mumps may include:

  • Swelling and tenderness in front of and below one or both ears and along the jaw
  • Fever
  • Tiredness
  • Muscle aches
  • Loss of appetite

Most people recover completely in a few weeks. People who do not have swelling may still spread the virus to others.

How is mumps spread?

Mumps is spread through indirect or direct contact with an infected person’s nose or throat droplets. It can be spread when an infected person coughs or sneezes or shares drinks or eating utensils.  People with mumps can spread it for up to 2 days before and 5 days after the start of symptoms. Some people who get mumps have very mild or no symptoms, and often do not know they have the virus. Symptoms typically appear 16-18 days after infection, but this period can range from 12-25 days after infection. 

What are the complications of mumps?

Complications of mumps are rare but may include painful swelling of the testicles, meningitis (in 1-10% of cases), encephalitis (swelling of the brain; less than 1% of cases), and/or hearing loss (very rare).

Who is at risk for mumps?

Anyone who has not had two doses of mumps vaccine is at risk for mumps. Even those who have had two MMR vaccines can get mumps because the vaccine does not produce 100% immunity. Due to living in close proximity to many people, college campus communities also increase the risk of infection. The risk is greatest for international travelers or people who are in contact with international travelers.

How is mumps treated?

Since mumps is caused by a virus, antibiotics cannot cure or treat mumps. Most treatment is to alleviate symptoms. Bed rest, a soft diet to reduce pain when chewing, and pain and fever relievers are often recommended.   


How can mumps be prevented?

The MMR vaccine is safe and prevents mumps at the rate of 88% on average after two doses. Purdue University requires proof of vaccination before entry.  Students who are concerned about their immunity to Mumps may request that a healthcare provider order a blood test to check for immunity. In January 2018, the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP) recommended that, in the setting of a mumps outbreak, individuals who have been previously vaccinated with two doses of the measles, mumps and rubella (MMR) vaccine receive a third dose of mumps virus-containing vaccine.

Other ways to stay healthy and prevent spreading the illness:

  • Be certain that your immunizations are up to date
  • Wash your hands regularly with soap and water
  • Sneeze and cough into a tissue or your elbow
  • Son't share drinks, food, and utensils
  • Avoid sick people 

What to do if you are exposed to mumps?

Watch for symptoms, even if you have been vaccinated. Early symptoms usually begin 16 to 18 days after contact and infection and are similar to those of the flu: fever, headache, muscle aches, and fatigue. The classic symptoms of mumps usually follow in 2 days with swelling and pain in front of and below one or both ears and along the jaw in the salivary glands. 

Stay home if you are sick. Anyone suspected of having mumps should stay home from school, work, and public or social activities for five days. This means do not attend class or labs, do not go to work, do not socialize with others during this five-day period and do not use public transportation. Mumps is contagious for about 2 days before symptoms appear until about 5 days after parotid swelling begins. Self-isolation when you are contagious will reduce the chance of getting others sick. Always cover your mouth and nose during any sneezing or coughing and wash your hands frequently.

What to do if you experience symptoms of mumps?

Isolate yourself from others and call Purdue University Student Health Services at 765-494-1700.