Mumps: What You Need to Know

MumpsDue to widespread use of the MMR (measles, mumps, and rubella) vaccine over the last several decades, you may have thought that the highly contagious mumps virus was no longer a problem in the U.S. Therefore, you may be surprised by the recent rise in confirmed mumps cases.

Some states allow parents to opt out of vaccinating their children for medical, religious, or philosophical reasons. However, the vast majority of people who were affected by the recent mumps outbreak had been vaccinated. This has led many people to wonder whether the MMR vaccine is worthwhile, particularly with respect to mumps immunity.

The truth is, the MMR vaccine is very worthwhile, having greatly reduced the number of mumps cases from the pre-vaccination era. With that said, of the three components of the MMR vaccine, mumps immunity is the one that is most likely to diminish over time. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), up to 20 percent of those vaccinated show evidence of decreased immunity within 15 years. Even so, partial immunity is usually retained, making the virus less severe when it is contracted.

The best way to prevent mumps is to be informed about how to protect yourself, and the MMR vaccine is your first line of defense. Here is some additional information that you may find helpful:

  • When to suspect mumps — Mumps is often spread when an infected person coughs or sneezes. Symptoms usually appear within 14 to 18 days of infection and may include painfully swollen salivary glands, fever, headache, fatigue, dry mouth, and loss of appetite.
  • How a health care provider can test for mumps — Mumps can often be diagnosed based on its symptoms and confirmed with a mouth swab to obtain a saliva sample for lab testing. Also, because the body’s immune system produces antibodies to help fight off infections, a blood test can detect the presence of the specific antibodies that are fighting the mumps virus.
  • What to do if you are diagnosed with mumps — Because the mumps virus can be highly contagious approximately two days before its first symptoms appear, isolation is not fully effective for preventing it spread. Nevertheless, it’s important to stay home for approximately five days after the onset of symptoms. While there is no specific treatment for mumps, ibuprofen can be helpful for reducing fever and relieving pain.

Usually, mumps will resolve on its own within 10 to 14 days. However, in rare cases, the virus can cause serious complications that may affect the brain (meningitis), testicles (orchitis), ovaries (oophoritis), or pancreas (pancreatitis). For these reasons, prevention is key.

If you have questions, please contact or visit the South Tampa Immediate Care walk-in clinic, where you can see an experienced physician without an appointment.