Should you be worried about mumps?

Should you be worried about mumps?

Before the use of the mumps vaccine in the 1960s, the U.S. had close to 200,000 cases of mumps every year, most of which occurred in infants and children. Now, we generally see a few hundred cases of mumps each year in the U.S. These outbreaks begin from overseas travel and international exposure, which reintroduce the virus back to the U.S. This leads to small outbreaks in unvaccinated people or individuals with a poor response to the vaccine. The outbreaks then dissipate due to high vaccination rates of the remainder of the community. Endemic (home grown) mumps, along with measles and rubella viruses, are now considered eradicated from North America because of our continued use of childhood vaccinations.

Signs and symptoms

A major factor contributing to the rise in mumps cases is being in a crowded environment or close-contact setting, such as attending the same class, playing on the same sports team or living in a dormitory with a person who has mumps. “Sufferers may not realize they have the virus because not everyone experiences symptoms,” says Frank Esper, MD, pediatric infectious disease specialist at University Hospitals Rainbow Babies & Children’s Hospital. Dr. Esper says signs may include:

  • Fever
  • Headache
  • Muscle aches
  • Swelling of the salivary glands, which are located between the ear and jaw

Dr. Esper advises seeing a doctor right away if you or your child experiences all the above symptoms and you have had exposure to known or suspected cases of mumps. In rare cases, mumps can lead to more serious conditions, such as swelling of the ovaries or testicles, deafness, encephalitis (inflammation of the brain) or meningitis (inflammation of the membranes around the brain and spinal cord).

Protect your family

Mumps spreads through saliva and respiratory droplets. Your family can avoid infection through good hygiene. “Instruct your children to wash their hands often, to avoid sharing utensils with others and to cover mouths and noses when they sneeze,” Dr. Esper recommends. “However, the best way to prevent mumps is vaccination.”

The CDC recommends that children receive two doses of the mumps vaccine, which is contained in the measles-mumps-rubella (MMR) vaccine. “The first dose should be given between ages 12 and 15 months. The second is recommended between ages 4 and 6,” says Dr. Esper. “And most adults born after 1956 who have not been vaccinated should get one dose.”

The Ohio Department of Public Health is urging anyone who has not received any doses of MMR and those who have received only one dose of MMR to be vaccinated as soon as possible. Dr. Esper adds, “Vaccination rates in Ohio are very good. Over 90 percent of children receive their first dose of MMR.”

There is no specific treatment for mumps, but the condition usually disappears within two weeks.

Before the 1960s, 200,000 cases of mumps each year in the U.S.

Measles-Mumps-Rubella (MMR) Vaccine effective at protecting against mumps
Two doses 88%
Source: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

Is your child up-to-date on vaccinations?

Schedule an appointment today with a UH Rainbow Care Network pediatric primary care provider at 216-UH4-KIDS (216-844-5437) or online at

Frank Esper

Pediatric Infectious Disease Specialist, UH Rainbow Babies & Children’s Hospital
Assistant Professor, Case Western Reserve University School of Medicine

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