Vaccinated or not, the mumps are on the rise again — What you need to know


Last year, there were more than 6,000 cases of the contagious disease mumps reported in the United States — the highest number in 10 years.

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That’s according to the Atlanta-based Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which recommends everyone 15 months and older receive two doses of the MMR vaccine, which protects against three diseases: measles, mumps and rubella.

There’s been a more than 99 percent decrease in mumps cases since the pre-vaccine era and in 2010, the total annual cases were down in the hundreds.

But in recent years, there have been multiple mumps outbreaks reported across the country.

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In fact, the number of reported cases increased from 229 in 2012 to more than 6,000 cases in 2016.

The last major outbreaks occurred in 2006, when the U.S. saw more than 6,500 reported cases, predominantly in the Midwest and among college-aged students.

Between Jan. 1 and Oct. 7 this year, 47 states and the District of Columbia have reported approximately 4,667 cases to the CDC.

Syracuse University in New York confirmed 37 mumps cases Friday, an outbreak that began in August mainly among athletes on campus.

According to Syracuse.com, to contain the outbreak, the CDC recommended those at risk receive an extra dose of the MMR vaccine, a dose that helped control a mumps outbreak at the University of Iowa in 2015.

What causes mumps?

Mumps is caused by a virus and is spread through saliva, mucus (from the mouth, nose or throat) via sneezing, talking, coughing, sharing items like cups or utensils or touching areas with unwashed hands.

Due to the close proximity of students and athletes and other people on a college campus, many of the recent outbreaks have occurred in college towns.

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“We are seeing it in other close-knit communities that tend to live closely together with strong social or cultural interactions,” including religious groups, Janell Routh, a pediatrician and medical officer on the CDC mumps team told the New York Times.

Common symptoms of mumps, according to the CDC:

  • fever
  • headache
  • muscle aches
  • tiredness
  • loss of appetite
  • swollen and tender salivary glands under the ears on one or both sides (resulting in puffy cheeks and a swollen jaw)

These symptoms normally appear 16-18 days after infection.

If people are becoming immune to the MMR vaccine, should the two-dose program still be administered?

Yes, according to Routh. “We know that two doses of M.M.R. decreases your risk of serious complications,” she said. 

Such complications include inflammation of the resticles in post-pubertal males, inflammation of the ovaries and more dangerously, deafness and inflammation of the brain, she said.

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Additionally, the MMR vaccine also protects against the more serious measles disease and rubella.

The third dose recommendation is meant for those deemed high risk by public health workers.

If there is a mumps outbreak near me, what do I do?

Be sure your M.M.R. vaccine is up to date, inform your doctor right away and make good hygiene a priority by washing your hands often with soap and water.

What do I do if I get mumps?

According to the CDC: 

When you have mumps, you should avoid prolonged, close contact with other people until at least five days after your salivary glands begin to swell because you are contagious during this time. The time it takes for symptoms to appear after a person is exposed to the virus can range from 12 to 25 days. You should not go to work or school. You should stay home when you are sick with mumps and limit contact with the people you live with; for example, sleep in a separate room by yourself, if you can. Staying home while sick with mumps is an important way to avoid spreading the virus to other people. People who are infected with mumps don’t get sick right away -- it can take 2 to 4 weeks for them to show signs of infection.

Read more about mumps at CDC.com.


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