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Living Well

Mumps Infections Highest in a Decade, Outbreaks Hit College Campuses

Last updated: Dec 19, 2016


Mumps is on the rise this year, with the most cases seen in a decade, according to new research from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control & Prevention (CDC). Schools and college campuses are experiencing large outbreaks of the contagious virus that causes fever, swollen glands, and telltale puffy cheeks.  

The number of cases has nearly tripled in the U.S. since 2015. Since the beginning of December, there have been 4,258 people infected with mumps in 46 states and the District of Columbia.

Traditionally, two doses of the measles-mumps-rubella (MMR) vaccine are recommended in early childhood. However, when outbreaks occur, individuals may be offered a third shot to boost their immunity. Those who live or work in close-contact settings such as dormitories, schools, or camps are particularly vulnerable to contracting the disease.

“The staggering number of mumps cases being seen around the country is alarming,” says Daniel E. Hermann, MD, MPH, Chair of Pediatrics and Adolescent Medicine at Summit Medical Group. “We continue to see infectious diseases that had been nearly eradicated in the U.S. coming back in large numbers. It is more important than ever that families stick to a regular immunization schedule.”

What are the mumps?

  • A contagious virus that begins with fever, headache, muscle aches, fatigue, and loss of appetite. After a few days, individuals usually develop swollen salivary glands (located under the ears) that cause the cheeks and jaw to look puffy and feel tender. 
  • Symptoms appear between 12 and 25 days after infection. A third of people who are infected do not experience any symptoms. 
  • Most people recover within a few weeks. In some cases, serious complications can develop including deafness or inflammation of the brain, spine, testicles, and ovaries.

How is the disease spread?

  • The mumps is transmitted through direct contract with saliva or mucus. This occurs when an infected person sneezes, talks, shares food, or touches a surface without washing their hands.

How can mumps be prevented?

  • The MMR vaccine protects against three diseases: measles, mumps, and rubella. The vaccine is 88 percent effective with two doses. The CDC recommends that children receive:
    • Dose 1 —between 12 and 15 months of age
    • Dose 2 — between 4 and 6 years of age
  • The MMRV vaccine protects against four diseases: measles, mumps, rubella, and varicella (chickenpox). This shot is only approved for children between 12 months and 12 years old.
  • Adults and teens should make sure they are up-to-date on their immunizations.  

The mumps were eradicated in the U.S. How did the disease come back?

  • Before the vaccine was introduced in 1967, mumps was a common childhood disease.
  • Mumps cases were down by more than 99 percent in the U.S. until the anti-vaccine movement began to grow twenty years ago. Since then, the disease has continued to pop up throughout the country. 

Is the mumps vaccine safe for my child?

Yes, the MMR vaccine is safe and effective. There is no link between the MMR vaccine and the development of autism.

“Nearly twenty years ago, a British gastroenterologist wrote a fraudulent paper, claiming that the MMR vaccine was linked with the development of autism. This false conclusion came from a single study that has since been discredited and the author lost his medical license. Since then, many additional studies have found no link between vaccines and autism,” says Dr. Hermann.


  1. Centers for Disease Control. “Mumps.” Centers for Disease Control. 27 July 2016. Web. 12 December 2016.
  2. CBS News. “Mumps cases at a 10-year high, colleges hard hit.” CBS News. 12 December 2016. Web. 12 December 2016.
  3. Wall Street Journal. “Mumps Outbreaks Are Worst in a Decade.” 5 December 2016. Web. 12 December 2016.