Measles and Mumps: Here's What You Need to Know

Measles and mumps

Are diseases like measles and mumps making a comeback? As more and more outbreaks are reported nationwide, public health officials in Utah are urging citizens to take preventative action against serious diseases like measles and mumps. What’s their advice? Make sure you’re up-to-date on your vaccines.

What's the difference between measles and mumps?

While mumps and measles are different viruses with unique symptoms, both are highly contagious, and the same vaccine – the measles-mumps-rubella (MMR) vaccine – is used to immunize against both diseases. The effectiveness of the vaccine increases with the application of two separate doses.

What are the symptoms of mumps?

Mumps have a 16 to 18-day incubation period before symptoms appear – sometimes even longer. The long incubation period is often how the virus spreads quickly through a community. The first signs of mumps include:

  • Fever
  • Headache
  • Muscle aches
  • Tiredness
  • Swollen and tender salivary glands under both ears

Some people who get mumps have very mild or no symptoms, and often don’t know they have the disease. Most people with mumps recover completely in a few weeks, but in some cases, mumps can result in serious complications including deafness, meningitis, or encephalitis.

What are the symptoms of measles?

The symptoms of measles generally occur 7 to 14 days after a person becomes infected. Measles is transmitted through the nose and throat mucus of someone that’s infected – usually through coughing or sneezing. The first signs of measles include:

  • High fever
  • Cough
  • Runny nose
  • Red, watery eyes
  • White spots inside the mouth (Koplik spots)
  • Rash

Measles rashes are red, blotchy, and typically start on the hairline and face and then spread downwards to the rest of the body.

The airborne virus is transmitted by respiratory droplets from coughing or sneezing that spray into the air and is so contagious that over 90 percent of people in close contact with an infectious person will get the disease if they’re not immune.

Other complications potentially can include ear infections, pneumonia and encephalitis. Although death is rare, measles is a potentially deadly disease.

What can you do to protect yourself against measles or mumps?

The best protection against measles and mumps is to stay current on your vaccinations. The MMR vaccine is widely available from your healthcare provider or local health department. To receive the MMR vaccine, contact your primary care provider, local pharmacy or reach out to your local health department or community clinic.

Children should be immunized with two doses of the MMR vaccine. Adults who should get two doses include healthcare workers, international travelers, and those who are in close contact with weakened immune systems and if you’re concerned they may not be immune.

If you develop symptoms, call your healthcare provider and let them know you may have the measles or mumps. It’s important not to visit a physician’s office, emergency room, lab or any medical clinic without first calling the facility and informing them of your possible exposure to measles or mumps. This will enable the facility to take the necessary precautions to protect other individuals from possible exposure.