The Travel Health and Vaccine Specialists

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Disease Directory


What is mumps?
Mumps is a contagious disease that is spread when infected people cough, sneeze, or talk. Sharing items, like cups or drink cans, with infected people can also spread the virus. The virus can also live on items and surfaces touched by an infected person for several hours.

Symptoms of mumps are fever, headache, muscle aches, tiredness, loss of appetite, and swollen and tender salivary glands under the ears or jaw on one or both sides of the face (parotitis). Most people with mumps recover fully. However, mumps can occasionally cause complications, such as swelling of the brain, testicles (in males), and ovaries and breasts (in females), and temporary or permanent deafness.

Who is at risk?
Because the mumps vaccine is not used everywhere, mumps is a common disease in many countries. The risk of mumps for travelers is high in many countries of the world, including industrialized countries, such as the United Kingdom, which has had several outbreaks since 2004, and Japan, which does not routinely vaccinate against mumps. Risk is especially high for travelers older than 1 year who have not had mumps vaccine.

What can travelers do to prevent mumps?
Get a mumps vaccine:

  • People who cannot show that they were vaccinated as children and who have never had mumps should be vaccinated.
  • The only mumps vaccines available in the United States are the measles-mumps-rubella (MMR) and the measles-mumps-rubella-varicella (MMRV) vaccines.
  • Adolescents and adults who have not had mumps or have not been vaccinated with MMR should get 2 doses, separated by at least 28 days.
  • Infants 6 months through 11 months of age should have 1 dose of MMR vaccine if traveling internationally.
    • Children in the United States routinely receive MMR vaccination at age 12-15 months
  • Children 12 months of age or older should have 2 doses, separated by at least 28 days.
  • MMR has been used safely and effectively since the 1970s. A few people experience mild, temporary adverse reactions, such as joint pain, from the vaccine, but serious side effects are extremely rare. There is no link between MMR and autism.
    • Two doses of this vaccine are nearly 90% effective at preventing mumps.
  • See Vaccine Information Statements (VIS) Adobe PDF file for more information.

Practice hygiene and cleanliness:

  • Wash your hands often.
  • If soap and water aren’t available, clean hands with hand sanitizer (containing at least 60% alcohol).
  • Don’t touch your eyes, nose, or mouth. If you need to touch your face, make sure your hands are clean.
  • Cover your mouth and nose with a tissue or your sleeve (not your hands) when coughing or sneezing.
  • Try to avoid close contact, such as kissing, hugging, or sharing eating utensils or cups, with people who are sick.