How long is mumps contagious?

Mumps - painful "hamster cheeks"

Mumps is caused by a virus called paramyxovirus parotitis. The disease often becomes visible when the patient develops "hamster cheeks" and complains of severe pain. This is because the parotid gland swells, which extends from the center of the ear to the neck. In addition, there may be fever, runny nose and general flu symptoms such as fatigue, headache and body aches. However, around 40 percent of all diseases have no symptoms at all.

Mumps - data and facts

Mumps occurs worldwide. Children and adolescents between the ages of four and 15 are particularly often affected, but adults can also become infected. Anyone who has ever had mumps in their life will never get it again. A single infection with the virus leads to immunity, as does a complete vaccination.

How does the contagion work?

The virus is transmitted from person to person via droplets that are distributed in the air. This means that there is a risk of infection with every cough, sneeze or talk. Direct contact with saliva, for example when kissing, can also lead to infection.

It takes about 16 to 18 days between being infected with the virus and the onset of symptoms. However, mumps is already contagious. A week before the parotid gland swells. There is also a risk of infection if only cold-like symptoms occur, which is usually the case with children under five years of age.

Mumps and fertility

Men who fall ill after puberty are at an increased risk. Testicular inflammation occurs in about one in three people. This can lead to a reduction in fertility or, in rare cases, a loss of fertility.

What symptoms does mumps cause?

Flu-like symptoms such as fatigue, loss of appetite, headache and body aches, and fever are common. The inflammatory swelling of the parotid glands, which can occur on one or both sides and is very painful, is typical of mumps. However, children under the age of five often only have cold-like symptoms.

The older the sick person is, the higher the risk of complications or long-term damage occurring. Up to ten percent of sufferers develop meningitis, and one in 20,000 sufferers can experience permanent hearing damage or deafness.

Recognize mumps for sure

Usually, when the parotid gland becomes inflamed, doctors can tell immediately that it is mumps. In unclear cases, for example if only flu-like symptoms occur, further examinations provide certainty. This is how the mumps virus can be detected in the blood.

How is mumps treated?

There is no therapy. Only the symptoms such as the fever and the pain can be alleviated. Since 2013, there has been an obligation to report mumps in Germany. Suspicion of illness and the actual illness must be reported to the responsible health authority, stating the name of the person concerned. The management of a public facility must also inform the health department if mumps occurs in the facility.

Mumps in pregnancy

If a woman develops mumps during pregnancy, there is no additional risk to the unborn life. The virus does not spread to the baby, nor does it cause an increased rate of malformations or miscarriages.

Is there a vaccination against mumps?

Yes, a vaccination is even recommended by the Standing Vaccination Commission (STIKO). The vaccination is carried out with a so-called MMR combination vaccine, which not only protects against mumps but also against measles and rubella. There is no single vaccine against mumps in Germany.

Double protection through vaccination

Vaccination protects you from infection. At the same time you protect the people around you, because thanks to the vaccination protection you no longer become the carrier of the mumps virus.

Who should be vaccinated and when?

It is recommended that children develop vaccination protection in two steps: The first vaccination should be given at the age of 11 to 14 months and the second vaccination no earlier than 4 weeks after the first vaccination and no later than the end of the second year of life.

In unvaccinated children and adolescents, the vaccination should be made up as soon as possible with two vaccine doses.

For employees in immediate patient care, in community facilities or in training facilities for young adults born after 1970, a single vaccination against mumps is also recommended if they were not vaccinated against mumps or only once in childhood or if the vaccination status is unclear.

Important to know: Even after a complete, two-time vaccination, mumps can occur in rare cases.