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Diseases / Mumps


What is it?: 

Mumps (parotitis epidemica) is a viral infection of humans, primarily affecting the salivary glands. Although it is mostly a mild childhood disease, with peak incidence occurring among those aged 5–9 years, the mumps virus may also affect adults, among whom complications such as meningitis and orchitis are relatively more common. Encephalitis and permanent neurological sequelae are rare complications.

In most parts of the world, the annual incidence of mumps in the absence of immunization is in the range of 100–1000 cases/100 000 population, with epidemic peaks every 2–5 years.

Humans are the only known natural host for mumps virus, which is spread via direct contact or by airborne droplets from the upper respiratory tract of infected individuals. In hot climates the disease may occur at any time of year, whereas in temperate climates the incidence peaks in winter and spring.1

Clinical features: 

All ages may be affected although more common in children over 1 year. It is characterised by painful swelling of the salivary glands, usually at the cheek(s). Sometimes, there may be complications like deafness, or infection of brain, pancreas, testicles or ovary.2

Mode of transmission: 

It is spread by droplet and by direct contact with the saliva of an infected person. A patient can spread the disease to other non-immune persons from 2 days before overt swelling of salivary glands to 5 days after the swelling.2

Incubation period: 

It ranges from 12 – 25 days, usually 18 days.2


Maintain good personal hygiene2

  • Perform hand hygiene frequently, especially before touching the mouth, nose or eyes, after touching public installations such as handrails or door knobs or when hands are contaminated by respiratory secretion after coughing or sneezing
  • Cover your mouth and nose with tissue paper when sneezing or coughing
  • When having respiratory symptoms, wear a surgical mask, refrain from work or school, avoid going to crowded places and seek medical advice promptly

Maintain good environmental hygiene2

  • Regularly clean and disinfect frequently touched surfaces such as furniture, toys and commonly shared items with 1:99 diluted household bleach
  • Use absorbent disposable towels to wipe away obvious contaminants such as respiratory secretions, and then disinfect the surface and neighbouring areas with 1:49 diluted household bleach
  • Maintain good indoor ventilation


  • An effective vaccine against mumps is available. Under the Hong Kong Childhood Immunisation Programme, children receive a two-dose course of mumps vaccination (Please refer to the Hong Kong Childhood Immunisation Programme).

There is no specific treatment but drugs may be prescribed to reduce discomfort.2


  1. World Health Organization. Weekly epidemiological record. Mumps virus vaccines: WHO position paper – February 2007. 2007;7(82):49-60.
  2. Centre for Health Protection. Communicable diseases – Mumps. 3 Jun 2019. [ONLINE] Accessed 15 Mar 2021.