A young girl playing with her toys on the floor, looking upwards.

Characterised by fever and swollen salivary glands, mumps is rare in Australia thanks to widespread immunisation programs. However outbreaks can still occur.

Did you know?

  • One-third of those infected with mumps will have no symptoms1
  • Mumps is commonly known for causing puffy cheeks and a tender, swollen jaw
A young, curly haired boy brushing his teeth.

What is it?

Mumps is a viral infection caused by the mumps Rubulavirus which leads to fever and swollen salivary glands. Once a common disease in children and young adults, mumps is now uncommon in Australia thanks to widespread immunisation programs, however cases still occur.

If the inflammation (swelling) caused by mumps spreads to other parts of the body, then serious, sometimes fatal complications can develop.

What are the symptoms?

Mumps symptoms generally occur 12 to 25 days after infection and can include:

  • fever
  • headache
  • generally feeling unwell
  • muscle aches and pains
  • loss of appetite
  • swelling of the salivary glands (located just in front of the ear)
  • painful chewing or swallowing.

Most people with mumps recover completely within a couple of weeks.

Serious complications with mumps can include meningitis (swelling of the brain and spinal cord) and deafness due to nerve damage. Other parts of the body can be affected, resulting in swelling and pain. This includes the testicles, breast, ovaries, heart, liver, thyroid and pancreas. During the first three months of pregnancy, mumps infection may result in miscarriage.

This is not a full list of symptoms that can occur following mumps infection. Please speak to a healthcare professional if you have any concerns about mumps infection.

How is it spread?

Mumps can be spread from person to person through the air, such as when an infected person coughs or sneezes. It can also be spread through close contact with an infected person via saliva or urine. Some people who are infected with the virus may not have any symptoms or very mild symptoms and may spread the disease without knowing.

People infected with mumps are contagious for up to 2 days before and for up to 5 days after symptoms appear.

Who is at risk?

Since the introduction of the mumps vaccine in Australia, mumps is now uncommon. However, mumps cases are still reported worldwide and anyone who has not been immunised for mumps may be at a higher risk of mumps infection, particularly those who travel to certain countries where mumps cases still occur.

Other people may be at risk of mumps infection. Please speak to a healthcare professional regarding your individual circumstances.

Prevention and Treatment options

  • Children and Adults

    Practicing good hygiene can help to prevent illness and the spread of germs:

    • covering your mouth and nose when you cough or sneeze with a tissue or into your upper sleeve or elbow
    • wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds (particularly before handling, preparing or eating food, after visiting the toilet and after changing a nappy)
    • if no water is available use an alcohol-based hand-rub
    • not sharing food or drinking utensils.

    The risk of mumps can be reduced through immunisation.

    Because it is a viral infection, there is no specific treatment for mumps and usually gets better on its own. Rather, treatment is aimed at relieving symptoms and can include bed rest, drinking plenty of fluids, reducing fever and pain, cold packs to press against swollen glands and reducing the risk of spreading the disease by staying away from others.

    Please speak to a healthcare professional for more information about mumps prevention and treatment options.

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  • Travellers

    It is important to plan ahead and see a healthcare professional at least 6 to 8 weeks before you travel to discuss prevention options and travel health.

References

  1. Australian Technical Advisory Group on Immunisation (ATAGI). Australian Immunisation Handbook, Australian Government Department of Health, Canberra, 2018, immunisationhandbook.health.gov.au. (accessed October 2020)

PM-AU-AVX-WCNT-190042 Date of GSK Approval: January 2021