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What is it

Mumps is a highly contagious disease caused by a virus. It is easily transmitted from person to person and can cause symptoms that typically last 7 to 10 days.1 Although mumps is no longer very common in North America due to the introduction of mumps-containing vaccines, outbreaks continue to occur, 2 [typically where people have had prolonged, close contact with a person who has mumps.2

Who is at risk

Anyone who has not been fully vaccinated or has not previously had mumps may catch the disease.3
Some people are at higher risk of being exposed to mumps if they are:3

  • Travellers to places outside North America
  • Secondary and post-secondary students in an educational setting
  • Health care personnel
  • Military personnel in close contact with someone who has mumps

What are the symptoms

Symptoms typically appear 14 to 25 days after infection with the mumps virus4 and generally last 7 to 10 days.1

Symptoms can be mild or severe, with the most common symptom being swelling of the salivary (saliva) glands. Swollen glands can make the cheek or neck bulge out on one or both sides. Other symptoms include:5

  • Fever
  • Headache or earache
  • Tiredness
  • Sore muscles
  • Dry mouth
  • Trouble talking, chewing or swallowing
  • Loss of appetite

How is it spread

Mumps is caused by a virus in the family. The virus can live in your nose, mouth, eyes and on your skin1. It is highly contagious, meaning it spreads very easily, but is less contagious than measles or varicella (chickenpox).4

The mumps virus can be spread through:4

  • Direct contact, including kissing an infected person
  • Through the air, such as when an infected person coughs, sneezes or talks
  • Contact with objects that were recently exposed to infected mucous or saliva

The mumps virus can be passed on to others even before you know you are infected. Typically an individual is most contagious 2 days prior to the appearance of symptoms.4

How is it prevented

Mumps can be prevented through receiving 2 doses of the mumps-containing vaccine.6, 7, 8, 9, 10

The mumps vaccine is part of the measles-mumps-rubella (MMR) or measles-mumps-rubella-varicella (MMRV) immunization. These combination vaccinations are given to children at 12 to 15 months of age, and again at 18 months or before a child starts school.6, 7, 8, 9, 10 The time at which the vaccine is given depends on your province or territory’s immunization schedule.6

The mumps vaccine is safewell tolerated, effective and free. Side effects of the vaccination are typically very mild and tend to go away within a few days.6

For those planning to travel abroad, visit your healthcare provider at least 6 weeks before you leave to discuss if the mumps vaccine is appropriate for you and your children.6

How is it treated

Most mumps infection tend to be mild in nature, your healthcare provider typically will let it run its course. Antibiotics will not treat the infection as mumps is caused by a virus rather than bacteria.11

If you develop mumps symptoms, stay home from work or school for at least the first 5 days after the swelling starts to avoid spreading the infection to others. You may also limit the spread by:11

  • Avoiding close contact with other household members
  • Avoiding sharing of drinking glasses or utensils
  • Covering coughs or sneezes with a tissue or your forearm
  • Practice hand hygiene

Medical advice is recommended for the onset of symptoms. For further information regarding mumps and immunization, please speak with your healthcare provider.


  1. Public Health Agency of Canada. Mumps. (2014)
  2. Public Health Agency of Canada. Mumps For Health Professionals. (2014)
  3. Public Health Agency of Canada. Mumps Risks. (2014)
  4. Public Health Agency of Canada. Mumps Causes. (2014)
  5. Public Health Agency of Canada. Mumps Symptoms. (2014)
  6. Public Health Agency of Canada. Mumps Prevention. (2014)
  7. GlaxoSmithKline Priorix-Tetra MMRV PM. (2017)
  8. Merck ProQuad MMRV PM. (2017)
  9. GlaxoSmithKline Priorix MMR PM. (2015)
  10. Merck M-M-R II PM. (2017)
  11. Public Health Agency of Canada. Mumps Treatment. (2014)