Key disease facts

Mumps is a vaccine-preventable infectious disease caused by a virus. It can lead to a wide range of complications, some very serious.

Before the MMR vaccine was introduced in 1988, more than 8 out of every 10 people in the UK developed mumps. Mumps used to cause about 1200 hospital admissions each year in England and Wales. It was the most common cause of both viral meningitis and acquired deafness in children.

In 2010, there were nearly 4000 cases in the UK.

What are the symptoms?

Around 1 in 3 people do not show any symptoms when they are infected.

Common symptoms:

  • Swelling of two large glands just in front of the ears (the parotid glands)
  • High temperature (38ºC or above)
  • Headache
  • Joint or muscle pain
  • Feeling sick
  • Loss of appetite
  • Feeling generally unwell

Common complications include:

  • Inflammation of the pancreas
  • Swelling of the ovaries or testes in teenagers and adults

Less common complications include:

  • Sterility
  • Deafness
  • Meningitis (See the Meningitis Research Foundation website for more detailed information on the signs and symptoms of meningitis.)
  • Kidney problems
  • Joint problems
  • Heart problems

Very rarely, mumps can cause death.

How is it passed on?

It is normally spread by water droplets that are coughed into the air by an infected person. Some people, including around 1 in 3 children, do not show symptoms when they are infected.

What protection is available?

The recommended way to protect your child against mumps is vaccination, through the MMR vaccine.

Page last updated: 
Monday, February 13, 2017