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What is mumps?

Mumps is a highly contagious viral infection that usually affects children.

How do you know if someone has mumps?

Swelling of the parotid glands is the most common symptom of mumps. The parotid glands are a pair of glands that are responsible for producing saliva. They are located on either side of your face, just below your ears.

The swelling causes additional symptoms, including:

  • pain and tenderness in the swollen glands
  • pain on swallowing and/or difficulty swallowing.

Other symptoms of the mumps include:

  • headache
  • joint pain
  • nausea
  • dry mouth
  • mild abdominal pain
  • fatigue
  • loss of appetite
  • a high temperature (fever) of 38C (100.4F), or above.

How does mumps spread?

Mumps is an airborne virus and can be spread by:

  • an infected person coughing or sneezing and releasing tiny droplets of contaminated saliva, which can then be breathed in by another person
  • an infected person touching their nose or mouth, then transferring the virus onto an object, such as a door handle, or work surface; if someone else then touches the object shortly afterwards, they can transfer the virus into their respiratory tract
  • sharing utensils, such as cups, cutlery or plates with an infected person.

How do ambulance staff stop mumps spreading?

Ambulance staff take special precautions with patients who have mumps in order to stop it spreading to other people.

Simple hygiene measures reduce the risk of spreading mumps:

  • Everyone should clean their hands before and after touching patients.
  • Hands can be cleaned with soap and water, moist hand wipes or alcohol hand rubs.
  • Staff will wear gloves and aprons when they care for a patient who has mumps.
  • The area where the patient was sitting and any equipment used on the patient will be cleaned using biocidal wipes.
  • If linen is used, eg sheets or blankets, these items will be changed between patients.

Does a patient with mumps have to be transported on their own?

Patients who have mumps must be transported on their own.

Further information is available from the Health Protection Agency website.