Mumps is caused by a virus and is spread through the air by sneezing or coughing.

It can also spread between people when they kiss, share drinks, food or other contaminated objects. 

Mumps causes fever, headaches, pain in the jaw and then swelling in the glands in front of the ear. Some males may experience swelling of their testes.  Severe complications are more common in older children and adults and include meningitis and sterility.  Very young children infected with mumps may have no symptoms but they will still spread the disease.


What to do if you think you have mumps

If you or your children have mumps symptoms, please contact one of the following:

  • your family doctor or practice nurse, by phone if you think you might be contagious
  • a Public Health Service nurse in the Nelson Marlborough region on (03) 546 1537
  • a Healthline nurse: 0800 HEALTHLINE (0800 611 116)
  • the Immunisation Advisory Centre: 0800 IMMUNE (0800 466 863)

If you suspect that you may have mumps, or have been diagnosed with mumps, it is important to:

  •  avoid contact with other people
  • check whether you or you children have had their recommended number of MMR (measles, mumps and rubella) vaccinations


How to prevent infecting other people

People with mumps should avoid contact with other people and stay away from their workplace, day-care or school.

They should be especially careful not to come into contact with infants, children, pregnant women, and immune-compromised people while they are unwell and until at least five days after the swelling starts.

People with mumps may be infectious from seven days before the salivary glands swell, until nine days after glands well.

Mumps symptoms do not usually occur until 16-18 days after exposure to the virus, and sometimes take up to 25 days to appear. 


Vaccination against mumps

All children in New Zealand can be immunised against mumps as part of their free childhood immunisations at 15 months and 4 years old. Vaccination may also be available for older children; contact your family doctor or practice nurse for advice.

There is more information about mumps vaccination on the Ministry of Health's website here.