The Hawaii State Department of Health (DOH) has been investigating an increasing number of cases of mumps infection statewide. The disease has been confirmed in children and adults, both vaccinated and unvaccinated.
Mumps is a contagious disease caused by a virus. The classic symptom of mumps is swelling of the salivary glands under the ears, resulting in a tender, swollen jaw.
In children, mumps is usually a mild disease. However, mumps can occasionally cause complications, especially in adults. Complications include:
- Meningitis (infection of the covering of the brain and spinal cord)
- Deafness (temporary or permanent)
- Encephalitis (swelling of the brain)
- Orchitis (swelling of the testicles) in males who have reached puberty
- Oophoritis (swelling of the ovaries) and/or mastitis (swelling of the breasts) in females who have reached puberty
I received a letter from my child’s school about mumps. Have there been cases of children who attended school while sick?
Yes. There have been some cases reported of children who attended school while infectious. The affected schools have been notifying students, parents, faculty and staff, and are reviewing the immunization records of their students.
Students and staff who have no vaccination record or laboratory test showing immunity against mumps and who had close contact with anyone affected by mumps will be kept home from school from the 12th through the 25th day after exposure, per Hawaii State law. They may return to school immediately after they are vaccinated, unless they have developed symptoms suggesting mumps infection (see below).
Please note: Persons with mumps are infectious several days before they develop swollen glands, making it challenging to avoid exposure to mumps in schools (or other close spaces such as offices).
What can I do to prevent mumps?
The best way to prevent mumps is to get vaccinated. The MMR vaccine protects against measles, mumps, and rubella.
All children should receive two doses of MMR vaccine. The first dose is typically given between 12 to 15 months of age, and the second dose is given between ages 4 to 6 years.
All adults born in or after 1957 also should have documentation of vaccination, unless they have a blood test showing they are immune to mumps. Certain adults at higher risk of exposure to mumps (e.g., health care workers) may need a second dose of the MMR vaccine.
What else can I do to prevent mumps?
In addition to getting vaccinated, you should practice good health habits, which includes covering your nose and mouth with a tissue or arm when sneezing or coughing, and frequent and proper hand-washing.
Can a person who has received two doses of the MMR vaccine still get mumps?
Yes. While the best way to prevent mumps is to get vaccinated, no vaccine is 100 percent effective. The MMR vaccine prevents most, but not all cases of mumps. Two doses of the vaccine are 88 percent effective at protecting against mumps, and one dose is 78 percent effective. This means if 100 people all received two doses of the vaccine, 12 of them will still get infected because, for some reason, their immune system didn’t recognize the vaccine and won’t protect them from infection.
How is mumps spread?
Mumps is spread through saliva or mucus via coughing, sneezing or talking, and also through physical contact with contaminated objects or surfaces.
What are the symptoms of mumps?
The most common symptoms of mumps include fever, headache, muscle aches, tiredness, loss of appetite, and swollen and tender salivary glands in front of the ears on one or both sides of the jaw (parotitis). Some people who get mumps have very mild symptoms or no symptoms at all. Others may feel sick but will not have swollen glands.
Symptoms usually start 16-18 days after infection with the virus, but the onset can range from 12 to 25 days.
Most people with mumps recover completely in a few weeks.
What should I do if I think I have mumps?
Consult your health care provider and remain at home to avoid spreading the disease to others until you are cleared to return to work or school. According to Hawaii State law, a person with mumps may not attend school, work or travel for nine days after the start of mumps symptoms (i.e., swollen salivary glands).