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Is Mumps Contagious?

mumps disease
Image source: CDC PHIL

The mumps virus is contagious and can be found in the saliva, throat, and urine of an infected person. It is spread through the air by respiratory droplets or by contact with the saliva of an infected person.1 The mumps virus has been detected from seven days prior to, and up to fourteen days following the onset of parotitis, however, the highest viral levels generally occur just prior to the onset of parotitis and decrease quickly. It is generally believed that transmission of the virus typically occurs a few days before and after the onset of parotitis.2 A person infected with mumps can spread the virus to others though:3

  • talking, coughing, sneezing
  • improper hand washing
  • sharing utensils or cups

It is also likely that the virus can be transmitted from individuals who are asymptomatic or who show signs of a nonspecific illness.4

Frequently, mumps outbreaks occur where many people live in close proximity to one another, such as close-knit communities, prisons, and college campuses.5 Recently, the majority of mumps outbreaks have occurred in fully vaccinated populations.6 7 8

IMPORTANT NOTE: NVIC encourages you to become fully informed about Mumps and the Mumps vaccine by reading all sections in the Table of Contents, which contain many links and resources such as the manufacturer product information inserts, and to speak with one or more trusted health care professionals before making a vaccination decision for yourself or your child. This information is for educational purposes only and is not intended as medical advice.

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1 CDC Transmission of Mumps. May 29, 2015

2 CDC. Surveillance Manual - Chapter 9: Mumps – Infectious Period. 6th edition. 2013

3 WebMD. What are the Mumps? Jan. 6, 2017

4 CDC. Mumps - Epidemiology Epidemiology and Prevention of Vaccine-Preventable Diseases (The Pink Book). 13th ed. 2015.

5 CDC Mumps For Healthcare Providers - Background Feb. 16, 2018

6 CDC Notes from the Field: Absence of Asymptomatic Mumps Virus Shedding Among Vaccinated College Students During a Mumps Outbreak — Washington, February–June 2017. MMWR Dec. 1, 2017; 66(47);1307–1308

7 CDC Notes from the Field: Complications of Mumps During a University Outbreak Among Students Who Had Received 2 Doses of Measles-Mumps-Rubella Vaccine — Iowa, July 2015–May 2016 MMWR Apr. 14, 2017; 66(14);390–391

8 CDC Mumps Outbreak at a University and Recommendation for a Third Dose of Measles-Mumps-Rubella Vaccine — Illinois, 2015–2016. MMWR  Jul. 29, 2016 / 65(29);731–734

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