What the heck IS mumps and what you need to know about US outbreaks

Mumps is a vaccine preventable virus that is on the upswing again.


  • Many folks have never seen it here in America. Since vaccination started in 1967 plus the 1989 second booster dose addition, the yearly US cases dropped from ~186,000/ year to less than 300.
  • Here’s whats going on:  
    • From 2016 to Mid-2017, 150 outbreaks occurred in the US
    • In 2016, there were ~6400 cases
    • In 2017, early data estimates ~5600 cases alone
    • 50% of the cases were in university settings. Crowded settings give the virus the easiest ability to spread.
  • Why we care-
    • After about a 12-25 days incubation period, symptoms include: fever, muscle aches, headache, tiredness, loss of appetite, and the more famous swollen salivary glands, with swollen cheeks and puffy jaws- it hurts, as I recall!
      • Also- swollen, painful testes and ovarian inflammation can occur (up to 2-3 %)
    • Complications include
      • Rare severe complications include: deafness, brain inflammation, sterility.
      • Mumps was the #1 cause of meningitis and deafness before the vaccine was created.
  • Why is mumps making a comeback?
    • Vaccines are not 100% effective, but help bolster a body response to a disease, help reduce the caches in affection or reduce the symptoms.
      • For example, the 2 dose series covers you ~88%  
      • The coverage wanes of 10-15 years- so with the last dose being given at 4-6 years old, by the time kids get into college in crowded dorms, the chances of transmission if someone shows up with the mumps, is higher.
  • What to do about it?
    • For most of the community:
      • It’s as simple as making sure you’ve gotten both mumps vaccines in your lifetime (usually given as MMR which include mumps-measles-rubella. or MMRV which also include varicella). Make sure your kids have gotten both of their doses! (Click here for the AAP Vaccine Table)
  • For high risk groups-
    • It is recommended to get a 3rd booster of either MMR (or MMRV)
      • Especially during outbreaks for people in close setting of for prolonged time and could come in contact with saliva or respiratory droplets ( i.e. form sneezing, coughing).
    • If you’re kids are heading off to college, or summer camps, check with your doctor to see if a booster is recommended

Want to learn more about mumps, it’s history and facts worldwide, click here.

(Mumps image credit: Alissa Eckert, Public Health Image Library)

Stay Healthy!

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