Mumps is a very contagious infection of one or more of the salivary glands and is caused by the mumps virus. These glands are located on either side of the face, below the ears. Mumps is spread from person to person through direct contact with saliva or discharges from the nose and throat of infected persons. Mumps can be spread by coughing, sneezing and even just talking.
Before a vaccine was available, nearly every child got mumps but now the number is much lower. Children who are not vaccinated are still very likely to get the disease; persons who have not been vaccinated against mumps are the main risk group and unvaccinated school-aged children are most at risk. The mumps vaccine is part of the MMR (measles, mumps, rubella) vaccine series given to children beginning at one year of age.
The main symptoms are severe swelling and soreness of the cheeks and jaw. Mumps usually starts with neck or ear pain, loss of appetite, tiredness, headache and low fever. One third of persons infected with the mumps virus have no symptoms. Symptoms usually start 12 to 25 days after infection with the virus and mumps can be diagnosed by a blood test or culture.
There is no specific medical treatment for mumps. Excess fever should be controlled, and warm moist towels can help relieve the discomfort of the swelling. Children with mumps should be kept home from school or day care until 9 days after the swelling begins, or until the swelling goes away.
Severe complications are rare but mumps can cause hearing loss, inflammation of the brain (encephalitis), and inflammation of the coverings of the brain and spinal cord (meningitis). Swelling of the testicles (orchitis) occurs in 15-25% of infected males. Bilateral mumps orchitis experienced prepubertally seems to have no effect, but mumps orchitis experienced postpubertally is associated with severe testicular damage in 10% of patients.
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