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Mumps is caused by the paramyxovirus, a relative of the measles virus. Mumps causes enlargement of the two salivary glands which are found towards the back of each cheek, in the area between the ear and the jaw.


Mumps is spread from person to person through direct contact with saliva, e.g. kissing or sharing objects contaminated with infected saliva (cups, cutlery). The mumps virus is also present in nasal and throat discharge, so can also be passed on through infected people coughing and sneezing. The saliva is normally infectious for about 6 days prior to the swelling of the salivary glands and then can be mildly infectious for approximately 2 weeks after.

Once you have had mumps you will have developed immunity and will not get it again.


Mumps is usually easily recognised because of the swelling in the cheeks and jaw, caused by inflammation of the salivary glands. The swelling can occur on one or both sides of the face. Symptoms usually appear 14-24 days after first becoming infected. Other symptoms of mumps include:

  • headache;
  • muscle pain;
  • slight fever;
  • fatigue;
  • dry mouth;
  • difficulty in swallowing;
  • loss of appetite; and
  • earache.

Men who develop mumps after puberty may experience painful inflammation of one or both of the testes and this may cause sub fertility in later life. The majority of people will recover from mumps without any problems. On very rare occasions mumps might cause an inflammation of the coverings of the brain and spinal cord, known as meningitis or encephalitis. 

Mumps infection during the first trimester of pregnancy may result in spontaneous abortion. Maternal infection is not associated with an increased risk of congenital malformation.


A combined vaccine is available for mumps, called MMR (measles-mumps-rubella), and is usually given to babies along with measles and German measles (rubella) at 12-15 months of age. A second dose is given before the child starts school.

In older individuals, who have received only 1 dose of vaccine containing mumps, a second dose can be given, as MMR, at any age.

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