Mumps

By:    Published: February 19, 2012

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Mumps is the term used to describe an illness that is caused by the mumps virus. It is a contagious disease that is spread from person to person through saliva. In the United States, mumps is considered a rare illness due to the introduction of the mumps vaccine in 1967. Generally, mumps infects children ranging from ages 3 to 14, but the disease can infect anyone, including adults. In the United States, confirmed diagnosis of mumps is averaged to be about 1,000 cases per year.

(Adults looking for more information on the mumps should read Possible Complications Regarding Mumps In Adults.)

Understanding Mumps

Anyone who has not previously contracted mumps or received the mumps vaccine is susceptible to becoming infected with mumps. Mumps is contracted when an individual comes into contact with drops of saliva from an infected person. Individuals who have an active mumps infection will experience varying degrees of pain and swelling in the salivary glands. The salivary glands are responsible for the production of saliva within your mouth. Mumps has a 12 to 24 day incubation period, meaning it will take between 12 to 24 days for an individual who has been exposed to mumps to develop symptoms and appear sick.

Symptoms

In some cases, a person may have such minor symptoms that a case of mumps is not suspected. However, symptoms are generally present in most cases. Usually mumps begins with a high fever, a headache and a loss of appetite. The most well know symptom associated with mumps is the swelling of the salivary glands, making those infected appear to have full cheeks. Other symptoms associated with mumps include:

  • Increased pain when swallowing or talking
  • Pain in the face
  • Sore throat
  • Swelling of the jaw
  • Muscle aches
  • Tiredness or lethargy

Males infected with the mumps virus may also experience additional symptoms such as:

  • Swelling of the scrotum
  • Lump in the testicles
  • Pain in the testicles

Causes

A virus is responsible for mumps infection. The mumps virus can only infect humans and is believed to be highly contagious. The mumps virus can easily be spread through an infected person’s saliva. Additionally, the mumps virus can survive on surfaces. It is therefore important to always wash your hands thoroughly if you have come in contact with an infected person’s tissues, napkins, utensils or drinking glass.

Risk Factors

Anyone who has not previously been infected with the mumps virus or has not been properly vaccinated against mumps is at risk for becoming infected with the virus. If you do not have proper evidence of immunization, be sure to take the necessary precautions, especially when travelling. Proper evidence of immunization includes:

  • Documentation that you have received two doses of the mumps vaccine, on or after your first birthday.
  • Laboratory blood tests indicating immunity.
  • You were born before 1957.
  • Documentation from a doctor of a mumps diagnosis.

Treatment And Home Care

If you suspect that your child has mumps, contact his or her doctor to receive a proper diagnosis. Because mumps is a virus, there is no specific treatment for the condition. It simply has to run its course. However, you may be able to alleviate some of the symptoms at home. Suggestions for home care include:

  • Take Acetaminophen for fever and to reduce pain.
  • Apply hot or cold compress for swelling of neck and face.
  • Increase fluid intake.
  • Eat soft foods.
  • Gargle with warm salt water.
  • Avoid acidic juices.

Complications

While mumps is generally a mild illness, complications can sometimes occur in certain individuals. Persons with mumps may experience infections in other organs. Complications due to the mumps virus are rare, but may include:

  • Encephalitis or meningitis, the swelling of the brain and/or spinal cord.
  • Orchitis, the swelling of and infection in the testicles of males who have experienced puberty.
  • Infection or inflammation of the ovaries or breasts in females who have experienced puberty.

Considerations

If you have recently become infected with mumps, take all of the necessary precautions to ensure that you do not spread the virus to someone else. Be sure to:

  • Wash your hands frequently and thoroughly with soap and water.
  • Refrain from coming into close contact with others, especially those who have not been immunized.
  • Sneeze and cough into a tissue or your elbow and not your hands.
  • Don’t share beverages or utensils with others.
  • Clean any surfaces that you’ve come into contact with using soap and water or cleaning products.

Mumps is a contagious illness that is caused by a virus. Anyone can contract mumps if they are not vaccinated against the virus or have not previously had mumps. If you suspect you or your child may have the mumps contact your doctor. While there is no treatment for mumps, you may be able to relieve symptoms at home. Mumps in general is a mild illness, if you become extremely ill after being diagnosed with mumps, seek emergency medical attention.

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