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Incubation Period for Mumps

During the early part of the mumps incubation period, a person is not contagious. However, he or she will become contagious from right before parotitis appears to nine days after the onset of symptoms. On average, the incubation period for this illness is 16 to 18 days, although this varies for each individual.

An Overview of the Incubation Period for Mumps

When a person becomes infected with the mumps virus, the virus begins to multiply within the nose, throat, and lymph glands in the neck. The virus can also enter the bloodstream and spread to the:
 
  • Parotid gland
  • Brain (meninges -- the membranes protecting the brain and spinal cord)
  • Breasts
  • Liver
  • Pancreas
  • Thyroid
  • Heart
  • Testes or ovaries
  • Kidneys.
     
After 16 to 18 days, on average, symptoms can appear. This period between mumps transmission and the start of mumps symptoms is called the "incubation period." In some cases, the incubation period can be as short as 12 days or as long as 25 days.
 

Is a Person Contagious During the Incubation Period?

A person is not contagious during the early mumps incubation period. A person is most contagious about three days prior to the onset of the swelling of the salivary glands (called parotitis) to nine days after the onset of symptoms.
 
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