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Frequently asked questions about mumps

What is mumps?

Mumps is a contagious disease caused by a virus. You can catch mumps through the air from an infected person's cough or sneeze. You can also get it by direct contact with an infected surface. The virus usually makes you feel sick and causes a salivary gland between your jaw and ear to swell. Other body tissues can become infected too.

What are the symptoms?

After a person is exposed to mumps, symptoms usually appear in 16 to18 days. But, it can take 12 to 25 days after exposure. The symptoms are usually:

  • Low-grade fever
  • Headache
  • Muscle aches
  • Stiff neck
  • Fatigue
  • Loss of appetite
  • Swelling and tenderness of one or more of the salivary glands
  • Some people have just mild symptoms, or no symptoms.

What are the complications of mumps?

Severe complications are rare. A small number of people may have inflammation of the brain and tissues that cover the brain and spinal cord (encephalitis/meningitis). Or, they may have inflammation of the testicles, ovaries or breasts. Deafness or spontaneous abortion may also occur.

How is mumps spread?

Mumps is spread through saliva or mucus from the mouth, nose or throat, most likely before the onset of swollen glands and up to five days after the swelling begins. An infected person can spread the virus through coughing, sneezing or talking; sharing items such as utensils or hand towels; and touching objects or surfaces with unwashed hands that are then touched by others.

How long is a person with mumps contagious?

A person with mumps can pass it to others from two to three days before the swelling starts until five days after the swelling begins.

Is there a treatment for mumps?

There is no treatment. Acetaminophen or ibuprofen can ease fever and pain.

Is it possible to get mumps if I have been immunized?

Yes. Even if you have been immunized, it is still possible to become infected with mumps. MMR vaccine is very safe and effective, but is not 100 percent effective. The mumps component of the MMR vaccine is about 88 percent (range: 66-95 percent) effective when a person gets two doses; one dose is about 78 percent (range: 49−92 percent) effective.

What should I do if a roommate or close friend has been diagnosed as a suspect mumps or confirmed mumps case?

If you are a student, contact the DSHSC for advice. If you are a staff or faculty member, contact your healthcare provider. Review your vaccination status with your provider and monitor yourself for any evidence of mumps such as swelling around the cheek and jaw areas. In addition, follow good hygiene practice including covering your mouth and nose with a tissue when coughing or sneezing throw the tissue away after one use, washing hands frequently with soap and water or an antibacterial liquid and avoiding sharing utensils or cups with others.

What is the best way to prevent mumps?

It is recommended that everyone be immunized as follows:

  • Children should get their first Measles, Mumps and Rubella (MMR) vaccine shot at 12 through 15 months old (as soon as possible within this time period). The second dose may be given as soon as one month after the first dose, but it is usually given between four and six years of age.
  • These people are at high risk for getting mumps: students at college, healthcare workers, international travelers or people living in a community with a mumps outbreak. If you are in this group, you are considered immune to mumps if you have written proof of two valid doses of a mumps-containing vaccine.
  • Children of preschool age, or adults not at high risk, are considered immune to mumps if they have proof of one valid dose of a mumps-containing vaccine.
  • You are also considered immune to mumps if you have a written lab report of immunity, or you were born before 1957.
  • Anyone who lacks proof of mumps immunity, as defined above, should receive at least one dose of MMR vaccine. Two doses of MMR vaccine are recommended for some groups of adults. This includes healthcare personnel, college students and international travelers. The doses should be given at least 28 days apart.

What are the MMR vaccine requirements for school attendance?

  • For pre-kindergarten, including day care, Head Start or nursery school: one dose of MMR vaccine
  • Kindergarten to 12th grade: two doses of MMR vaccine
  • College: two doses of MMR vaccine

What should I do if I'm not sure I was vaccinated against mumps?

Check with your doctor. If you were born before 1957, it's likely that you have been exposed to the virus and are immune. If you were born between 1957 and 1971, when vaccines weren't as reliable, ask your doctor if you've been properly vaccinated.

What should I or my family members do to prevent mumps if we are traveling out of the country?

Mumps is still common in many other countries. Make sure you are fully vaccinated before traveling outside of the U.S.

  • Children, adults and adolescents should have two doses of MMR vaccine, at least 28 days apart.
  • An early dose of MMR vaccine is recommended for children six-11 months of age who will be traveling internationally. These children will still need the two routine doses given at 12-15 months and four-six years of age to ensure protection. They will receive a total of three MMR vaccines.

What if I have not been immunized?

If you are a student and have not been immunized against mumps, whether for religious or medical reasons, you may be directed to  leave campus immediately and remain away for 26 days (past the exposure period for mumps) following the last confirmed case. The 26-day clock resets each time there is a newly confirmed case.

The DSHSC has been in contact with students who have not been immunized according to DSHSC records.

If I am required to leave campus, how will I complete my courses?

Faculty have been asked to work closely with students who are required to leave campus due to lack of immunization against mumps, to make accommodations for continuing their studies while they are away from campus. For additional support, contact the Dean of Students Office (607-777-2804) and request assistance from Case Management.

I have a friend who is isolated as a suspect case. Am I at risk if I deliver meals to my friend?

There is no risk of infection associated with leaving a package of food outside the door of someone who is isolated as a suspicious mumps case.

What if I work on campus?

If you are a student who has been vaccinated, you can still go to your campus job. If you have not been vaccinated, you will be required to remain away from campus, and from your on-campus job, until 26 days have passed since the last case of mumps was confirmed.

What if I am pregnant or have a compromised immune system?

Most pregnant women have been immunized against mumps, but if you are pregnant and have not been immunized, or if you are immunocompromised, contact the DSHSC if you are a student, or your healthcare provider if you are a faculty or staff member.

Last Updated: 2/8/18