The Story of Mumps

The Story of Mumps

By: Anna G. Gilley, MD, FAAP

In light of this recent pandemic, understanding why we vaccinate has become more and more important. In the next several weeks, I will be talking about each vaccine preventable disease.

The vaccine preventable diseases are:

  • Diphtheria
  • Haemophilus influenza type b (HIB)
  • Hepatitis A
  • Hepatitis B
  • Human Papillomavirus (HPV)
  • Influenza (flu)
  • Measles
  • Meningococcal infections
  • Mumps
  • Pertussis (whooping cough)
  • Pneumococcal infections
  • Polio
  • Rotavirus
  • Tetanus
  • Varicella (chicken pox)
Today, we will start off with Mumps.

Mumps is a viral infection caused by a virus in the paramyxovirus family. Mumps’ only known host is humans. Mumps can be spread by respiratory secretions, coughing, sneezing, talking, and direct contact. It usually presents with fever, muscle pain, headaches, malaise, pain, and swelling of salivary glands. The infection can last 3-7 days. The infected person can spread the virus two days before the swelling begins, to up to five days after the swelling occurs. About ⅓ of infected patients have no symptoms, but can spread the virus.

In most cases, mumps is mild and self resolves, but it can cause serious complications such as:

  • Meningitis (swelling of the lining of the brain and spinal cord)
  • Encephalitis (swelling of the brain)
  • Orchitis (swelling of the testicles)
  • Myocarditis (swelling of the heart)
  • Oophoritis (swelling of the ovaries)
  • Mastitis (swelling of the breast)
  • Pancreatitis
  • Deafness

Prior to the Mumps vaccine, Mumps was the leading cause of deafness and meningitis.

The mumps vaccine is a live attenuated virus vaccine that is combined with Measles and Rubella (MMR) and sometimes Varicella (MMRV). The Mumps vaccine has been licensed in the United states since 1967. It is recommended that all children receive the vaccine at 12-15 months and a second dose at 4-6 years of age.

Since 1967, the incidence of mumps has decreased by 99%. One single dose is approximately 78% effective, and it is 88% effective after the second dose. Some recent outbreaks indicate that immunity can wane over time. High risk individuals in ages 15-24 years old may need a 3rd dose of the MMR vaccine during outbreaks. High vaccination rates and coverage helps to limit the spread of mumps outbreaks.


Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: Mumps Mumps (AAP)