Boston Public Health Commission Mumps Fact Sheet

What is mumps?

Mumps is a contagious disease caused by a virus. The most common symptom is swelling of the cheeks and jaw due to inflammation of one or both of the salivary glands near the ear and back of the jaw. Other symptoms include fever, headache, stiff neck and loss of appetite. Mumps is usually a mild illness, but there can be complications including meningitis (infection of the covering of the brain and spinal cord), encephalitis (swelling of the brain), and in adult males, swelling of the testicles. Less common complications may include hearing loss, arthritis, swelling of the ovaries, breast swelling, and heart or kidney problems. The virus may increase the risk of a miscarriage, especially within the first three months of pregnancy


How is mumps spread?

The virus that causes mumps lives in a person’s nose, mouth and throat. It can be spread through the air to persons close by (within 3 to 6 feet) when the infected person coughs or sneezes. Mumps can also be spread by contact with infected secretions. Persons are most contagious 2 days before symptoms begin until 5 days after onset of disease.


How is mumps diagnosed?

Mumps is often suspected by its symptoms; however, the most common method used to confirm the diagnosis mumps is a blood test. Other laboratory tests may also be used.


What can be done to stop the spread of mumps?

The best way to prevent mumps is to be vaccinated against it. If you develop symptoms of mumps, come to University Health and Counseling Services (UHCS).  No one with mumps should go back to classes, work or other public places until 5 days after swelling of the salivary glands began. Students who have been in contact with a person who has mumps should verify their vaccination history by calling UHCS at 617-373-2772, option #1. Anyone who may have been exposed should be educated on the signs and symptoms of mumps and should seek medical attention if any of these symptoms begin.


What can I do to protect myself?

Each of has a responsibility to our community to prevent the spread of mumps.

Start by checking your immunization status as this is the most important way to stop the disease.

  • Cover you cough or sneeze with your inner elbow.
  • Wash your hands or use hand sanitizer frequently – before you eat, after touching your face/mouth/eyes/nose, and after having contact with anyone who is or could be sick.
  • Do not share food, utensils, drinks, straws, lipstick or other personal items.
  • Dispose of used tissues.