What is mumps?

Mumps is a viral infection which primarily affects the parotid salivary glands. It is a contagious disease commonly affecting pre-pubertal children. Mumps can also affect adults and give rise to significant complications. The disease more commonly occurs in developing countries in which the populations are not vaccinated against mumps. However, these days it is also reappearing in larger numbers in developed nations due to some parents refusing to immunize their children.

What are the symptoms of mumps?

The disease primarily targets the parotid glands and infection spreads through to the upper respiratory tract. The initial symptoms include swelling and tenderness over the parotid gland extending towards the neck region. Both the cheeks become enlarge and the patient usually experiences difficulty in opening the mouth. The disease is also associated with fever, body ache and loss of appetite.

The symptoms of mumps may not be very severe and subsides within a few weeks, but the infection is often associated with certain complications. The complications are more common in teenagers or adults suffering from the disease. Abdominal pain caused by inflammation of the ovaries is experienced in women. Risk of abortion significantly increases if a pregnant female gets infected by mumps in the first trimester of pregnancy.

The male population affected by mumps can develop bilateral orchitis, a condition characterized by swelling of both the testicles. Meningitis is another complication of mumps, which occurs in almost half of the adult patients.

What causes mumps?

Mumps is an endemic viral infection and occurs in epidemics over a period of two to three years in non vaccinated populations. It commonly affects children of 5 to 9 years of age. It can also affect adults who are not vaccinated against mumps. The causative organism responsible for mumps is paramyxovirus. The disease takes around 16 to 18 days to develop the symptoms. A person suffering from mumps can be infectious for a period of one week after the symptoms subside.

The disease is contagious in nature and spreads from one person to another. The respiratory secretions and saliva are major sources of spread of the virus. The secretions can spread in tiny droplets of fluids containing the paramyxovirus. The virus can also survive on surfaces and spread after contact with another individual. Activities such as sneezing or coughing from an infectious person can spread the disease. It can also spread via sharing foods, kissing or contact with infected person’s saliva.

How is mumps treated?

Treatment is given to reduce the pain and discomfort of the swellings of the glands and testicles. Steroid therapy including oral prednisolone is most commonly prescribed. Paracetemol and ibuprofens are the drugs given to reduce the pain and inflammation. Aspirin is avoided in children.

Application of hot and cold packs over the testicles, warm water gargles, increased fluid intake and soft diet is also recommended to the patient.
Mumps vaccine is a part a vaccine against the measles, mumps and rubella virus in combination known as the MMR vaccine. This vaccine is ideally given at the age of 12 to 15 months. A second dose of the vaccine is given at the age of 4 to 6 years. A person acquires lifelong immunity against mumps after being infected suffering form the first attack.

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