Loyola University Chicago

Wellness Center


Frequently Asked Questions

What is mumps?

Mumps is a viral infection and is highly contagious. Mumps causes swelling of the salivary glands under the ears, which results in a swollen or puffy jaw. Mumps is rare in the United States due to required vaccinations, but outbreaks sometimes occur. It tends to be the most common in the late winter and early spring. Most people with mumps recover from the illness in a few weeks, but more serious complications can happen rarely.

Why do Loyola students need to know this?

A case of mumps was identified on campus the week of Feb. 1, 2016. Since mumps is contagious and many students live on campus in close quarters, it is important to recognize the signs and symptoms of mumps, as well as ways to prevent infection.

All students at Loyola are required to be vaccinated against mumps in accordance with state law. Loyola University's Wellness Center enforces these state requirements. Protection against mumps is given by taking two doses of the MMR vaccine, which most people received in childhood. Unfortunately, vaccination is not 100% effective. 

Two doses of mumps vaccine are 88% (range 66% to 95%) effective in preventing the disease; one dose is 78% (range 49% to 91%) effective. 

How is mumps spread?

The virus is spread by contact with saliva or mucus droplets from someone infected by mumps. Infected persons can give others mumps by coughing and talking in close proximity to groups of people. The virus can also be spread if a sick person shares utensils or food with someone, or does not wipe down a shared living space after use. Mumps tends to spread rapidly in very close quarters.

People with the mumps usually do not show symptoms until 16-18 days after being infected. People are considered contagious from approximately three days before to five days after their symptoms begin, which means that someone may be contagious without even knowing they are sick. Symptoms tend to decrease after one week and generally resolve after ten days.

Is mumps serious? What are the symptoms?

Mumps causes flulike, painful symptoms, but most people recover a week to ten days after the onset of symptoms. People infected with mumps usually start out with nonspecific symptoms such as headaches, body aches, a low grade fever, decreased appetite and fatigue. Usually within 48 hours of these symptoms, people develop parotitis, which is the swelling on the glands under the ears. People with mumps typically have a swollen or puffy jaw, and feel pain in front of or below the ears. They also have jaw pain, especially when trying to chew food.

There is no cure for mumps, but people can try to relieve or lessen their symptoms by taking over-the-counter pain relievers, resting, eating soft or non-solid foods, and drinking plenty of fluids.

In rare cases, mumps causes serious complications. In adult males, the most common complication of mumps is orchitis (swelling of the testicles). Other possible complications include meningitis and encephalitis (swelling of the brain). Fortunately, most patients who develop these complications recover fully. 

What can I do to protect myself against mumps?

Consider getting a booster injection of the MMR.  Evidence indicates that a third dose of MMR can be helpful in controlling mumps outbreaks. Although it is not required to have 3 doses of MMR, getting a booster will provide an increased level of protection against this virus. Interested students should contact their health insurance company to verify whether the vaccine is covered.

In the meantime, everyone at the University should consider enhancing their social distance. This means frequent hand washing, avoiding unnecessary physical contact, and not sharing eating utensils or food with other students. In general it is safe to maintain a six foot distance from other individuals, although typically one should always avoid individuals who are sick during times of outbreak. In addition, cough etiquette is important. Avoiding crowds whenever possible is a good idea at this time.

What if I have been potentially exposed to mumps or have not been vaccinated?

The Chicago Department of Public Health will assist the University in managing an outbreak of mumps. If you have symptoms of mumps, contact your healthcare provider or the Loyola Wellness Center immediately at 773.508.8883. 

It is possible that in consideration of the serious impact this potential outbreak poses to our campus, students who have been exposed to mumps and are considered to be at risk of infection may be restricted from attending class, residing in University-owned housing, and participating in campus activities for a period which may extend for several weeks, typically 21 days. These restrictions also apply to students that have vaccination exemptions and have not received the MMR vaccination, as these students are at a higher risk of contracting and spreading the virus. This decision is made with the Chicago Department of Health and will be implemented if necessary by the University. 

Where can I find more information about mumps?

For more information on the signs and symptoms of mumps, visit the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) page at http://www.cdc.gov/mumps/index.html.