What is mumps?

Mumps is caused by the mumps virus. It is spread through contact with an infected person. 

It is a serious disease because it can lead to:

  • inflammation of the brain (encephalitis)
  • inflammation of the lining of the brain and spinal cord (meningitis)
  • inflammation of the heart (myocarditis)
  • infertility (not being able to have children).

About 1 in 200 children with mumps will develop brain inflammation, which can be very serious. Mumps can also damage nerves, which can lead to deafness.

For women in the first 3 months of pregnancy, mumps can cause miscarriage.

Symptoms

Mumps symptoms include:

  • fever
  • swelling of the face
  • headache
  • fatigue
  • aches and pains
  • loss of appetite
  • painful chewing or swallowing.

Symptoms usually start about 12 to 25 days after catching mumps. Most people start to feel better in 2 weeks.

Who is at risk

Mumps is not common in Australia but can affect people at any age. People who haven’t been immunised have the highest risk.

How it spreads

Mumps can spread:

  • when an infected person coughs or sneezes and you breathe it in
  • through close contact with an infected person.

If you have mumps, you can help stop the disease spreading by:

  • staying away from childcare, school, work or other places where you could spread the infection — your doctor will tell you when you’re no longer infectious
  • washing your hands often
  • covering your coughs and sneezes.

Prevention

Mumps can be prevented with vaccination.

Find out more about getting vaccinated against mumps.

Diagnosis

Your doctor can diagnose mumps by:

  • checking your face for swelling
  • asking if you’ve been in contact with someone who has mumps
  • doing a swab test from your throat
  • doing a urine or blood test.

If you have mumps your doctor may be required to notify your state or territory health department.

Treatment

There is no specific treatment for mumps. Most people get better on their own.

Some of the complications of mumps can be serious. See your doctor if you:

  • have pain anywhere apart from the face
  • have a high fever
  • seem to be getting sicker.

People with serious disease may need to go to hospital.

Contacts

National Immunisation Hotline

Last updated: 
6 November 2018