Six countries (Denmark, England and Wales, France, Germany, Italy and the Netherlands) conducted large serological surveys for mumps, in the mid-1990s, as part of the European Sero-Epidemiology Network (ESEN). The assay results were standardized and related to the schedules and coverage of the immunization programmes and the reported incidence of mumps. Low incidence of disease and few susceptibles amongst adolescents and young adults was observed in countries with high mumps vaccine coverage (e.g. the Netherlands). High disease incidence and large proportions of mumps virus antibody negative samples in adolescent and young adult age groups was noted in countries with poor vaccine coverage (e.g. Italy). The build-up of susceptibles in older children and adolescents in England and Wales, France, the former West Germany and Italy indicate the possibility of further mumps outbreaks in secondary school environments. To control mumps in western Europe, current MMR immunization programmes will need to be strengthened in a number of countries. Sero-surveillance of mumps is an important component of disease control and its usefulness will be enhanced by the development of an international mumps standard.