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The Facts About the Mumps

October 5, 2016

Immunizations for children are important to reduce the severity of an illness and to reduce their chances of getting an illness. However, there have been some concerns in recent months from parents in the community about the seriousness of the mumps and the need to be vaccinated. Following are some facts about the mumps provided by the Iowa Department of Public Health.

What is mumps? It is an infection caused by the mumps virus. How is mumps spread? Mumps is spread by airborne transmission with mucus or droplets from the nose or throat of an infected person, usually when a person coughs or sneezes.

Who gets mumps? Anyone, but it is more common in infants, children and young adults. Of people who are not immunized, greater than 85 percent will have mumps by adulthood, but symptoms may have been mild and therefore not recognized.

What are the symptoms of mumps? The most common symptoms are fever, headache, and swollen salivary glands under the jaw. The disease can lead to hearing loss, aseptic meningitis (infection of the covering of the brain and spinal cord) and, in 20 to 30 percent of males who have reached puberty, the disease can cause painful, swollen testicles.

How soon do symptoms appear? They may appear 12 to 25 days after infection, but usually within 18 days.

How long is an infected person able to spread the disease? A person can spread disease from three days before they become ill until four days after or until symptoms resolve. Unapparent infections can be communicable.

What is the treatment for mumps? There is no specific treatment.

Is there a vaccine to prevent mumps? Yes. Two doses of mumps-containing vaccine, given as combination MMR vaccine, separated by at least four weeks, are routinely recommended for all children. The first dose is given on or after the first birthday; the second is given at 4 to 6 years of age. MMR is a live vaccine. Pregnant women and persons with immunodeficiency or immunosuppression should not receive live vaccines.

What can be done to stop the spread of mumps? Anyone with mumps should not go back to child care, school, work, or other public places until five days after symptoms began or until they are well whichever is longer. People who are contacts to a mumps case should have their immunization status evaluated. Anyone who is not immune and has not received two doses of a mumps-containing vaccine should be vaccinated. Persons who may have been exposed should be educated on the signs and symptoms of mumps disease and should seek medical attention as soon as any of these symptoms begin.

For more information or to schedule an appointment for the mumps vaccine, call Boone County Public Health at (515) 432-1127 or your physician.

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