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Mumps is a contagious disease that causes painful swelling of the parotid glands, the largest of the three major pairs of salivary glands, located in the cheeks. It is caused by a virus and usually strikes children and teens. It usually goes away completely after running its course and complications are rare. However, some complications can be serious.

Before a mumps vaccine was introduced in 1967, it was a very common childhood illness. Now that most children are vaccinated, it is relatively rare for people to get mumps. However, there have been a few outbreaks in recent years at Universities across the country.

The following signs and symptoms often accompany mumps:

  • Swelling of the salivary glands in the face and jaw line
  • Fever, chills, headache, loss of appetite, and a general feeling of discomfort
  • Pain when chewing or swallowing
  • Inflammation of the testicles, which happens in up to 25% of men who get the disease after they reach puberty

Symptoms usually start 14 - 24 days after infection with the virus.

Mumps is caused by a virus and spread through infected saliva. You can get mumps from breathing in droplets of the virus when an infected person has coughed or sneezed, or by sharing utensils.

People who have not been vaccinated, particularly children and teens, are at risk for developing mumps. Mumps occur most often in children between the ages of 5 - 9.

If you have symptoms of mumps, you should contact Student Health and Education Services at 410-617-5055. They will check for swelling in your face, especially below the ear and above the jaw. They may also do a blood test or a viral culture to see if the mumps virus is present.


Vaccination is the key to preventing mumps. The live mumps virus is about 95% effective in preventing the disease. The vaccine is available by itself or in the combination vaccine of measles-mumps-rubella (MMR). Protection usually lasts at least 20 years with very few side effects. It is generally given at 15 months of age, but teens and adults can get it as well. Pregnant women should not be vaccinated, and people with fever or allergies to eggs should first talk with their health care provider.

If you have mumps, you should stay out of school or work for 7 - 10 days after symptoms start. That's when you are most contagious. You should eat soft foods, avoid acidic foods and beverages, such as citrus or tomato products, and take pain relievers as needed.

For more information or questions about Mumps, please contact Student Health and Education Services at 410-617-5055.