Child with swollen cheeks and face from mumps

What is Mumps?

Mumps is a viral illness that can spread from one person to another. Most people recover from the infection, but mumps can have serious complications and lead to long-term health problems. Since the widespread use of the mumps vaccine, mumps infection is rare.

What are the signs and symptoms of mumps?

Signs and symptoms usually start 12 to 25 days after the exposure and may include:

  • No symptoms
  • Fever
  • Headache or earache
  • Muscle soreness
  • Tiredness
  • Loss of appetite
  • Dry mouth
  • Trouble talking, chewing, or swallowing
  • Painful swelling of one or both salivary glands (found between the cheek and teeth, just below the ears), known as parotitis

How is it spread?

Mumps spread by face-to-face contact and direct contact with saliva or respiratory droplets of a person who has mumps. Mumps can be spread through coughing, kissing, sneezing, or sharing of drinks.  The germ can live on surfaces, too.  You can get mumps, by touching a surface that has the mumps virus on it and then touching your nose or mouth.

How long is it contagious?

A person with mumps is able to spread the germ from 7 days before symptoms and up to 5 days after swelling starts. People with no symptoms may also spread the germ.

What are the possible complications?

  • Encephalitis (inflammation of the brain)
  • Meningitis (inflammation of the tissue lining of the brain and spinal cord)
  • Orchitis (inflammation, or redness and swelling, of one or both testicles)
  • Oophoritis (inflammation of the ovaries)
  • Mastitis (inflammation of the breasts)
  • Pancreatitis (inflammation of the pancreas)
  • Deafness (temporary or permanent)
  • Sterility (in rare cases)
  • Spontaneous abortion can occur if infection happens in the first three months of pregnancy

Should I see a healthcare provider?

Yes, contact your healthcare provider immediately if you think you or your child has developed such symptoms.  Early diagnosis is important to preventing spread and complications.

If you think you or your child have mumps, call the health care provider before going into their office or walk-in-clinic. This is so the office can prepare for your arrival, and avoid passing on the infection to others.

What is the treatment for mumps?

Treatment of mumps usually includes providing comfort and support for the symptoms presented.

How can mumps be prevented?

Vaccination remains the best protection against mumps. You need two doses of the measles-mumps-rubella (MMR) vaccine to get full protection against measles, mumps, and rubella. Adults born in Ontario between 1970 and 1991 are not fully protected against mumps if they only received one dose of a mumps-containing vaccine as a child. Talk to your health care provider to ensure you are up-to-date with your vaccines and to confirm your protection against mumps.

Avoid close contact with people who are sick.  Avoid sharing drinking glasses or utensils.  Prevent the spread by coughing and sneezing into tissues and sleeves, and cleaning your hands well.

Health Care Providers

All clinically diagnosed, suspected, and confirmed cases of mumps are reportable to the Health Unit immediately by telephone. Timely reporting of communicable diseases is essential for their control. Exclusions from school and or work are assessed and directed by the Health Unit. Please fax the Mumps Reporting Form to 226-783-2132.

If you are reporting mumps, or have any questions or concerns, please call the Health Unit at 519-258-2146 (ext. 1420) during business hours, or 519-973-4510 after hours.

Laboratories are required to fax lab confirmed case information immediately to 226-783-2132.  For further information about human diagnostic testing, contact Public Health Ontario Laboratories Customer Service (Consulting with Health Care Providers on laboratory testing) or call toll free: 1-877-604-4567.


Ontario. Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care. (2014). Infectious diseases protocol, Appendix A: Disease-specific chapters, Chapter: Mumps. Toronto, ON: Queen’s Printer for Ontario. Retrieved from

Ontario. Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care. (2014). Infectious diseases protocol, Appendix B: Provincial case definitions for reportable diseases, Disease: Mumps. Toronto, ON: Queen’s Printer for Ontario. Retrieved from

Public Health Agency of Canada. (2014). Mumps. Retrieved from