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What is mumps?

Mumps is an illness caused by infection with the mumps virus.

Since introduction of the childhood immunisation program against mumps in the 1980s, this disease is now uncommon in Tasmania.

What are the symptoms?

About one third of people will have only mild symptoms or no symptoms at all.

When present, symptoms may include:

  • fever
  • fatigue (tiredness)
  • muscle aches
  • headache
  • swelling and soreness of the sides of the face and/or along the jaw line. This swelling may only affect one side of the face
  • painful chewing and/or swallowing.

Complications of mumps are more common in adolescents and adults and may include meningitis (inflammation of the lining around the brain), encephalitis (inflammation of the brain), pancreatitis (inflammation of the pancreas), orchitis (inflammation of the testicles), oophoritis (inflammation of the ovaries) and deafness.

A person who has been in contact with someone with mumps may become unwell between 12 to 25 days after exposure.

How is it spread?

Mumps is mainly spread by breathing in droplets from an infected person when they cough or sneeze.

Mumps may also be spread through contact with items that have been in contact with these infected droplets, for example unwashed hands and used tissues.

A person with mumps is infectious from up to seven days before and up to nine days after symptoms start.

How is it diagnosed?

If a doctor thinks you may have mumps, blood tests, urine tests or a swab from inside the mouth may be collected to confirm the disease.

How is it treated?

There is no specific treatment for mumps.

Care involves:

  • rest
  • fluids
  • simple analgesics to reduce pain and fever
  • cold compresses held against the swollen glands to reduce discomfort
  • observation for complications.

How is it prevented?

Immunisation is the best way to prevent mumps and potential serious complications. People most at risk of mumps are those who have not had two mumps-containing vaccines.

Mumps may be prevented by two types of combined vaccine: the measles-mumps-rubella (MMR) or measles-mumps-rubella-varicella (chickenpox) (MMRV) vaccine.

Who should get immunised?

People born after 1965 are recommended to have received two doses of mumps containing vaccine. Mumps vaccines are provided free under the National Immunisation Program (NIP) to:

  • young children at 12 months (MMR) and at 18 months (MMRV) of age
  • people 20 years and younger who missed any of their childhood mumps containing vaccines (MMR or MMRV if younger than 14 years and protection against chicken pox is needed).
  • refugee and humanitarian entrants 20 years and older (MMR).

What should I do if I have had contact with someone who has mumps?

Individuals who have not received two doses of mumps-containing should see their GP to get a vaccine.

Seek medical attention if you develop symptoms of mumps.

What should I do if I have mumps?

If you think you have mumps, make an appointment to see your general practitioner. Individuals with mumps must stay home from work, school or childcare until nine days after the onset of facial swelling or until fully recovered (whichever is sooner) to prevent the infection being spread to others.

For more information:

Call the Public Health Hotline – Tasmania on 1800 671 738 to speak to a clinical nurse consultant.

4 April 2019