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Mumps Information: What is Mumps?

What is Mumps?

The illness Mumps is caused by the Mumps virus.

What are the signs and symptoms of Mumps?

When a person gets Mumps they may first have a headache and fever for a couple of days and then the glands under and in front of the ear, on one or both sides, begin to swell (parotid glands). These glands produce saliva for the mouth. The swelling may last up to a week.

Some people with Mumps do not get swelling of the parotid glands.

Instead they can get orchitis (males - inflammation of the testicles), or oophritis (females - pain and tenderness in parts of the abdomen due to swelling of the ovaries).

Some people with Mumps can also get encephalitis (inflammation of the brain) and meningitis (inflammation of the lining of the brain and spinal cord).

However, some people with swollen parotid glands do not have Mumps.

How long are you ill for?

People with Mumps usually recover completely within 10-12 days from when symptoms start.

A person with Mumps can spread the disease to others for several days before symptoms begin, and up to nine days after the symptoms first started.

Up to one-third of those with Mumps infections have no symptoms at all, yet they are still infectious (can spread the disease).

How do people get Mumps?

It is transmitted from person to person via droplet spread.

This means to catch Mumps a person must have contact with the fluid from the mouth and nose of another person with Mumps. This can happen during sneezing, coughing, touching tissues, direct contact, sharing drinks etc. It is less contagious than measles or chickenpox.


There is no specific treatment for Mumps, but pain relief can help with symptoms such as pain and fever. It is important to see your doctor if you think you have Mumps, as it is a notifiable disease.

This means that all cases need to be reported to the Public Health Unit (PHU) so we can make sure we are doing everything we can to prevent more cases.


Mumps used to be a common illness before we had an immunisation programme.

Most cases of Mumps are now seen in people who have not had a Mumps vaccine.

In New Zealand, the Measles Mumps Rubella (MMR) vaccination is offered to all children at the age of 15 months and then again at four years. This results in protection against Mumps infection for more than 95% of those who have been vaccinated.

Some people, particularly those born in certain overseas countries, did not have access to Mumps vaccination as children and therefore are vulnerable to catching the virus.

If you have had Mumps you will not get it again.

Therefore, there is no need to then have a Mumps vaccine, although you may still be at risk of getting rubella and measles if you have not had MMR.

Sometimes we offer the MMR vaccine to people who have not had Mumps or the vaccination before, particularly if they have been in contact with a known case of Mumps.

This may not provide protection soon enough if they have already been exposed to someone with the disease. However, the vaccine can provide protection to any future exposure to Mumps or to Measles and Rubella infections.

What should you do if I think you have Mumps?

If you think you have Mumps, or are complaining of the signs and symptoms highlighted above, then you should visit a General Practitioner who will take blood and other specimens to diagnose Mumps.

What should you do if you have Mumps?

If you have Mumps it is important you try not to pass it on, particularly to young children and to others who may not be protected by vaccination.

This means that you should reduce contact with others as much as possible.
Make sure you use tissues for blowing your nose, coughing and sneezing, then throw these tissues away and wash your hands.

Try to stay about one metre away from others when possible. Avoid going places where a lot of people are gathered and young children.

Make sure you do not share drink bottles or anything else that may be in contact with your saliva or mucous. Make sure you wash your hands. You should take these precautions for nine days after symptoms begin.


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