The most common mumps transmission method is through coughing or sneezing, which can spread droplets of saliva and mucus infected with the mumps virus. Transmission of the virus also occurs when someone touches an infected surface and then touches the eyes, nose, or mouth. The time period between transmission and the appearance of symptoms is anywhere from 12 to 25 days.
Mumps is a contagious illness spread by coughing and sneezing or touching something infected with the mumps virus. Mumps transmission can occur anytime, from about 3 days prior to the onset of the swelling of the salivary glands (parotitis) to 9 days after the onset of symptoms.
The mumps virus resides in the mucus in the nose and throat of the infected person, along with the saliva. When that person sneezes or coughs, droplets spray into the air. The infected mucus can land in other people's noses or throats when they breathe or put their fingers in their mouth, nose, or eyes after handling an infected surface.
Following mumps transmission, a person does not immediately become sick. Once the virus enters the body, it travels to the back of the throat, nose, and lymph glands in the neck, where it begins to multiply. It also enters the bloodstream and travels to other parts of the body. After 12 to 25 days (the average is 16 to 18 days), symptoms of mumps can appear. This period between mumps transmission and the beginning of mumps symptoms is called the "incubation period for mumps."