Mumps is a disease resulting from infection by the mumps virus. The disease is characterised by swelling of one or both cheeks or sides of the jaw, also known as parotitis, along with:
- swollen glands
Mumps infection can also lead to serious complications including:
- aseptic meningitis
- inflammation of the testes
- permanent deafness
The most effective strategy for preventing the transmission of mumps is vaccination with the measles mumps rubella (MMR) vaccine.
More information on mumps can be found on the NHS inform website.
Guidance on mumps: risk in pregnancy, infection in healthcare settings and the MMR vaccine can be found on the Public Health England website.
For all infection prevention and control guidance visit the A-Z pathogens section of the National Infection and Prevention Control Manual.
Data and surveillance
Surveillance update for January to March 2020
Mumps was a common childhood disease before the introduction of the MMR vaccine, with more than 85% of adults having evidence of previous mumps infection. Following the introduction of the MMR vaccine in 1988, the incidence of mumps substantially decreased. However, since 2004, there has been ongoing widespread increased incidence of mumps throughout the UK, with the number of laboratory-confirmed cases peaking in 2005. As shown in Figure 1, smaller outbreaks have occurred in 2009, 2012, and 2014 to 2015. At these points in time, most of the individuals affected were adolescents and young adults and had not received two doses of MMR.
As shown in Figure 2, the number of laboratory-confirmed mumps cases has been variable over the last several years, ranging from 216 cases in 2016 to 817 in 2015. Numbers by the end of 2019 reached 784, and the number of cases reported for 2020, by the end of March, was 853, exceeding the total for the previous year.
In late 2014 to 2015, a widespread outbreak occurred which mainly affected those in higher education. The observed increase in cases more recently may represent poor initial immune response to the mumps component of the MMR vaccine, waning immunity, or a combination of both within fully and partially vaccinated individuals
There were 281 laboratory-confirmed mumps cases in 2018, which is a decrease compared to 2017 during which 385 cases were reported. In 2019, 784 laboratory-confirmed mumps cases were reported. NHS Boards continue to experience clusters of mumps which occur mainly in adolescents and young adults, with 853 cases reported in the first quarter of 2020. Cases in March reflect a reduction in cases in comparison to the first two months of 2020.
This trend may be expected to continue to decline as a result of social distancing measures to mitigate the transmission of COVID-19, which may interrupt the transmission of mumps. It may also reflect reduction in diagnoses due to reduced attendance at primary care services.
Age distribution of cases
Figure 3 shows that the majority of mumps cases in recent years have been in those aged between 17 to 34 years. Although the vaccination status of cases is not routinely collected, this is consistent with the age groups which are likely to be under-immunised with a mumps-containing vaccine, or for whom there is waning immunity.
The incidence of mumps by age group in the first quarter of 2020, shown in Figure 4, reflects notably higher incidence among individuals aged 17 to 20 years compared to other ages (137 cases per 100,000 population). This was followed by those aged 21 to 24 years (87 cases per 100,000 population).
Laboratory confirmed cases by NHS boards
Figure 5 shows the variability in the incidence of mumps between NHS board. The highest incidence between January and March in 2020 was observed in NHS Forth Valley (48 cases per 100,000 population), followed by NHS Borders and Lothian (34 and 24 cases per 100,000 population, respectively).
There are limitations caused by a reliance on laboratory reports as this will represent a considerable underestimate of community circulation of mumps as many cases may be undiagnosed or based on clinical confirmation only. It should also be noted that differences in sampling and testing practices may account for variation across the NHS boards.
Vaccine uptake statistics are published by Public Health Scotland Data and Intelligence.