Mumps (parotitis epidemica) is an infectious disease. The disease is caused by the mumps virus. It often causes inflammation in the parotid glands behind the jaw, under the ears. This can lead to swelling in the cheeks. The virus spreads through the air. Children in the Netherlands can be vaccinated against mumps to prevent serious illness. 

How can I recognise mumps?

Mumps usually causes a mild course of illness. More than half of children under 2 years old do not have any symptoms at all. If a person does become ill, it usually starts with a fever.  Later symptoms may include muscle aches, headache and cold symptoms.  A person who has mumps often has swelling in one or both cheeks, because the parotid glands behind the jaw become inflamed and puffy.  The swollen glands are painful, especially when opening the mouth.  Many people also have an earache.  The swelling in one or both cheeks and the other symptoms generally go away after about a week.  

Some people develop more serious symptoms. If that happens, then mumps can cause permanent loss of hearing. It could also cause inflammation in the testicles or ovaries, which sometimes leads to infertility. Between 4 and 10 people in every 1000 patients with mumps develop encephalitis: inflammation of the brain.  Most of these cases involve young children, and the patients generally make a full recovery.

Some people have a higher risk of becoming ill from mumps. This applies to babies between 6 and 14 months old, and people who have not been vaccinated against mumps and have never had the disease.

How might I catch mumps?

The mumps virus spreads easily from person to person. People who have mumps can infect others by sneezing and coughing. The virus can also be transmitted via hand contact or surfaces like shared toys. Have you been exposed? It may take as long as 2 to 3 weeks before you become ill. You can already infect others several days before you start showing symptoms.

How can I prevent mumps?

Vaccination can help you avoid getting mumps. In the Netherlands, children can be vaccinated against mumps at 14 months and again at 9 years. This is arranged through the National Immunisation Programme. Vaccination cannot completely prevent a person from getting mumps. But it does mean that they are less likely to become seriously ill. Have you had mumps before? Then you are unlikely to get it again. If you do get mumps again, you will have a mild case.

Is there any treatment for mumps?

There is no treatment for mumps.  If a person has the mumps virus, the body has to clear the virus on its own.  You can take painkillers like paracetamol to help with the pain.  More information about mumps is available (in Dutch) on the Thuisarts website

Do you think that you or your child might have mumps? Always let your GP know – even if you or your child hardly have any symptoms. The GP has to notify the Municipal Public Health Services (GGDs) if a person has mumps. The GGD keeps track of how many people have mumps.

How common is mumps in the Netherlands?

Until 1987, approximately 85% of people had mumps during childhood. Every year, between 300 and 800 children and adults who had mumps developed meningitis. That is why the vaccination to prevent mumps has been in the National Immunisation Programme since 1987. This disease has now almost disappeared. The virus does still cause outbreaks occasionally. From 2007 to 2009, there was a major epidemic among children who had not been vaccinated for religious reasons. There was also an increase in mumps cases between 2009 and 2013, mainly involving students who had been vaccinated. This increase was probably due to frequent close contact between students and waning protection from the vaccine over time. 

There was a sharp decrease in mumps cases in 2020, probably due to the measures to prevent COVID-19 from spreading.

Current situation

RIVM is closely monitoring the spread of the mumps virus and posting updates on the current situation on the website. 

Can a person with mumps go to childcare, school or work?

A child who feels fine can go to childcare or school. Mumps is already contagious before a person starts showing symptoms. Staying home does not help keep others from becoming ill.

If your child has mumps, tell the childcare provider or teacher. They can consult with the Municipal Public Health Services (GGDs) to notify other parents, so parents can be alert to possible mumps symptoms in their children.

If an adult has mumps and feels fine, they can return to work. If you work in healthcare or work with young children, consult with your employer, the company doctor or the GGD before returning to work