Mumps and HIV

All You Need to Know About This Childhood Disease

Man with bandage around head, holding jaw.
Mumps and HIV. H. Armstrong Roberts / Getty Images

The news media has been reporting an outbreak of the childhood disease known as mumps. What are the mumps? Are HIV+ people at any additional risk of getting the mumps during this new outbreak? Is there anything you can do to decrease the risk of mumps? And finally, if you do get mumps is there a treatment?

What is Mumps Infection?

Mumps is an infection caused by a virus similar to influenza or flu virus.

In an effort to prevent mumps, most children are vaccinated at a very young age. Yet, small local outbreaks among children and adults still do occur each year. Before vaccination was started in the 1960's, about 200,000 cases of mumps occurred each year. With regular vaccination of young children, that number has declined significantly to about 4500 to 13,000 cases yearly world wide.

What is a Vaccine?

How Does Mumps Spread from Person to Person?

Because the virus that causes mumps is similar to the flu virus, spreading from person to person happens in very much the same way. Mumps is spread by coming in direct contact with saliva or discharges from the nose or mouth of an infected person. The primary routes of infection include:

  • coughing
  • sneezing
  • kissing
  • sharing glasses or utensils
  • talking in close proximity.

For this reason, yearly outbreaks are usually found in schools and colleges where there are large groups of people in close contact with one another.

What Are The Signs And Symptoms of Mumps?

Some people will have no noticeable symptoms at all. If there are symptoms they can vary from mild to severe and in rare cases can even be life threatening. Typically, the initial symptoms include:

  • fever
  • headache
  • swollen, painful salivary glands beneath the jaw
  • visibly swollen glands in the neck and beneath the jaw
  • ear pain
  • facial pain

These symptoms usually appear about 2 days after infection and can last as long as 2 weeks. Less common but more severe symptoms can include:

  • mild inflammation of the covering of the brain or spinal cord (meningitis) which causes moderate to severe headaches
  • swollen and painful testicles (especially in adults)
  • MYTH: Testicular swelling always causes sterility - in fact it rarely does
  • in severe cases, brain inflammation (encephalitis) can occur
  • gradual hearing loss that may be permanent
  • FACT: Prior to vaccination, childhood deafness was commonly caused by mumps
  • arthritis symptoms in males
  • rare involvement of other organs such as the heart, pancreas, and ovaries
  • in extremely rare cases, death can occur

How Can I Prevent Mumps Infection?

Since the late 1960's, a mumps vaccine has been available, either as part of the Mumps, Measles, and Rubella (MMR) vaccine or as a mumps vaccine alone (monovalent vaccine). Vaccination with one of these vaccines can protect against mumps infection.

Who Should Be Vaccinated?

Are HIV+ People at Greater Risk?

Anyone who has not developed immunity to the mumps virus can become infected. Since regular mumps vaccination began in the 1960's, most people do have mumps immunity, including those people living with HIV and AIDS. Since there are occasions when the mumps vaccine did not result in immunity, there are people who have not developed antibodies to fight mumps despite being vaccinated. Those people are at the greatest risk of becoming infected with mumps.


National Network for Immunization Information, 2006.

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