Mumps is a contagious viral infection that causes painful swelling of the parotid glands (parotitis), the glands located below each ear that produce saliva. It is caused by the paramyxovirus and is spread through contact with saliva of an infected person. Children are more commonly affected by mumps, however adults can also contract the virus.
Symptoms of the mumps are pain and swelling of the face and neck on one or both sides, pain with chewing and swallowing, headache, sore throat and fever. The face and neck swelling are a telltale sign and people look like a chipmunk that has food stuffed in it’s cheeks. Symptoms may range from mild to severe, so some people barely notice symptoms.
There are several more serious complications that can occur with mumps and these include swelling and inflammation of the testicles (orchitis), ovaries (oophoritis), breasts (mastitis), brain (enchephalitis) or the membrane that covers the brain and spinal cord (meningitis). Other complications can include pancreatitis and hepatitis. Testicle swelling is more commonly one sided, rather than both and is the most common non-parotid manifestation of the mumps. Sometimes there is a lump on the testicle along with the pain and swelling. This complication usually develops 7-to-10 days after the onset of parotitis and occurs in 25-40 percent of post pubertal men.
The incubation period, or the time between contracting the virus and developing symptoms, ranges between 2-to-3 weeks and the majority pr people become contagious around three days before symptoms and up to nine days after symptoms, so it’s possible to contract and pass on the virus to other before even developing any symptoms. This is one of the reasons that good hygiene and hand-washing are important at all times.
Thankfully, mumps is easily preventable through vaccines and is one of the immunizations received in the “MMR” vaccines that we get as children. However, even vaccines aren’t always a sure thing and around 10 percent of people will not have immunity after two doses of the vaccine. There have been two recent outbreaks of mumps in the US, the first in 2006 in the midwest and the second in 2009-2010 that involved parts of New York and New Jersey.
Treatment is geared toward controlling symptoms and in most people the fever resolves in 3-to-4 days while the pain and swelling resolve within seven days. Warm or cold compresses may be applied to swollen glands to help alleviate pain. In cases where there is testicle swelling, the scrotum should be supported and cold compresses applied. Pain is managed with medications and can also be relieved by injecting the spermatic cord with an anesthetic medication. On rare occasion, testicular involvement can lead to infertility.
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