What causes mumps? How is it spread?

Mumps is caused by a virus. The virus can live in your nose, mouth, eyes and on your skin. It is highly contagious, meaning it spreads very easily, but is less contagious than measles or chickenpox.

The mumps virus can be spread in several different ways including:

  • direct contact, such as kissing an infected person,
  • through the air, such as when an infected person coughs, sneezes, or talks,
  • by touching objects that were recently exposed to infected mucus or saliva (when someone else touches the same surface and rubs their eyes, mouth or nose).

It can take between 14 and 25 days for symptoms to show up after you have been infected. However, you can pass the infection on to others even before you know you are sick. In fact, the time you are most contagious starts 2 days before the symptoms begin.

If you develop mumps symptoms, you will continue to be highly contagious for the first 5 days of your illness. During this infectious period, you should stay home from work or school. Young children should not go to daycare if they are showing the symptoms of mumps.

Page details

Date modified: