Mumps

Mumps is a contagious disease that is caused by the mumps virus. Mumps typically starts with a few days of fever, headache, muscle aches, tiredness, and loss of appetite, and is followed by swelling of salivary glands. Anyone who is not immune from either previous mumps infection or from vaccination can get mumps.

Before the routine vaccination program was introduced in the United States, mumps was a common illness in infants, children and young adults. Because most people have now been vaccinated, mumps has become a rare disease in the United States.

Currently, there is no specific treatment for mumps. Supportive care should be given as needed. If someone becomes very ill, they should seek medical attention. If someone seeks medical attention, they should call their doctor in advance so that they don't have to sit in the waiting room for a long time and possibly infect other patients.

Symptoms

  • Fever
  • Headache
  • Muscle aches
  • Tiredness
  • Loss of appetite
  • Swollen and tender salivary glands under the ears or jaw on one or both sides of the face (parotitis)

Complications

Most people with mumps recover fully. However, mumps can occasionally cause complications, and some of them can be serious. Complications may occur even if a person does not have swollen salivary glands (parotitis) and are more common in people who have reached puberty.

Complications of mumps can include

  • Inflammation of the testicles (orchitis) in males who have reached puberty, which rarely leads to sterility
  • Inflammation of the brain (encephalitis) and/or tissue covering the brain and spinal cord (meningitis)
  • Inflammation of the ovaries (oophoritis) and/or breasts (mastitis) in females who have reached puberty
  • Temporary or permanent deafness

Transmission

Mumps is spread by droplets of saliva or mucus from the mouth, nose, or throat of an infected person, usually when the person coughs, sneezes or talks. Items used by an infected person, such as cups or soft drink cans, can also be contaminated with the virus, which may spread to others if those items are shared. In addition, the virus may spread when someone with mumps touches items or surfaces without washing their hands and someone else then touches the same surface and rubs their mouth or nose.

Most mumps transmission likely occurs before the salivary glands begin to swell and within the 5 days after the swelling begins. Therefore, CDC recommends isolating mumps patients for 5 days after their glands begin to swell.

If you have mumps, there are several things you can do to help prevent spreading the virus to others:

  • Minimize close contact with other people, especially babies and people with weakened immune systems who cannot be vaccinated.
  • Stay home from work or school for 5 days after your glands begin to swell, and try not to have close contact with other people who live in your house.
  • Cover your mouth and nose with a tissue when you cough or sneeze, and put your used tissue in the trash can. If you don't have a tissue, cough or sneeze into your upper sleeve or elbow, not your hands.
  • Wash hands well and often with soap, and teach children to wash their hands too.
  • Don't share drinks or eating utensils.
  • Regularly clean surfaces that are frequently touched (such as toys, doorknobs, tables, counters) with soap and water or with cleaning wipes.

Vaccination

The MMR (measles, mumps, and rubella) vaccine is the best way to prevent mumps. The MMR vaccine should be routinely given when children are 12-15 months old, and a second dose should be given when they are 4-6 years old. Two doses of the vaccine are more effective against mumps than one dose and prevent most, but not all, cases of mumps and mumps complications.

Read more about mumps at the CDC site.

young boy in doctor scrubs with stethoscope

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