Mumps is an acute viral illness (an illness that develops quickly and lasts a short period of time). Usually, a few cases occur each year in New Zealand, but in 2017 an outbreak of mumps affected over 700 people.
Mumps causes swelling in the glands around the face. It can lead to meningitis in about 1 in 10 people.
Mumps is spread through the air by breathing, coughing and sneezing, or through contact with infected saliva (ie, kissing, sharing food and drink).
If you’ve caught mumps, it usually takes 12–25 days before you get sick. You’ll be infectious from 1 week before swelling appears until 5 days after.
Stop mumps spreading
If your child has mumps, they should be kept home from school or early childhood services for 5 days after swelling develops. This will help prevent the spread of mumps in your community. If your child is still unwell after this 5 days they should remain at home until they are well.
Information for health professionals
Public health advice on mumps for health professionals.
If you or your child has mumps, the symptoms are:
- pain in the jaw
- swelling of the glands around the face.
There is no specific treatment for mumps. Most people get better on their own within two weeks. Treatment to ease symptoms include:
- bed rest
- plenty of fluids
- paracetamol to reduce pain and fever
- cold compresses held against the swollen glands.
From 1 October 2020 the MMR vaccine was moved from being given at 15 months and 4 years to being given at 12 months and 15 months.
All children in New Zealand can be immunised against mumps as part of their free childhood immunisations.
The best protection against mumps is the measles, mumps and rubella (MMR) vaccine. Two doses of MMR vaccine protects about 85 percent of people from mumps. A small number of people who have been vaccinated will still catch mumps, but they are less likely to be seriously ill.
Everyone in New Zealand who was born from 1 January 1969 is eligible for free MMR vaccination.
People born between 1990–2005 are at greatest risk of catching mumps, as they're the group least likely to have been fully immunised as children. Those born in Fiji, Tonga, Kiribati, Nauru, Papua New Guinea, Solomon Islands, Tuvalu and Vanuatu as well as many mainland nations in Asia may not have been offered mumps immunisation as children.
If you’re unsure of your vaccination status you can check your Well Child Tamariki Ora (or Plunket) book, or contact your general practice.
If you can’t find your records, the Ministry of Health recommends you get vaccinated anyway – it's free for those born from 1 January 1969, and there are no safety concerns about having an extra dose of the vaccine.
Vaccination is particularly important if you are planning to travel anywhere overseas – to protect yourself and to help prevent outbreaks in New Zealand.
Get up to date with your immunisations
It’s never too late to get up to date with your immunisations. By being immunised, you will not only be protecting yourself and your family – you’ll also stop the disease spreading in your community.
A doctor or nurse can provide the vaccinations, which are given as injections in the arm or leg. Contact your general practice or student health centre to make an appointment.
For more information about the vaccine, read the HealthEd resource Childhood Immunisation.
Who shouldn’t have the vaccine?
You shouldn’t get immunised against mumps if you:
- are pregnant
- have a severe allergy or immunosuppressive condition.
If you think you have been exposed to mumps and are unable to have the vaccine, ask your doctor for advice.
Making a decision about immunisation
Risks associated with mumps
- In about 1 in 10 people it causes meningitis, but it is usually relatively mild.
- It causes encephalitis (inflammation of the brain) in about 1 in 6000 people, of whom 1 in 100 will die, and nerve deafness in 1 in 15,000 people.
- If infected after puberty, 1 in 5 males gets testicle inflammation and 1 in 20 females gets ovary inflammation. In rare cases this leads to infertility.
Risks associated with the vaccine
- Aseptic mumps meningitis occurs in 1 in 800,000 vaccine recipients. This is less severe than the illness caused by the mumps virus.
If you have questions, talk to your doctor or practice nurse or call the Immunisation Advisory Centre free helpline 0800 IMMUNE (0800 466 863).