Mumps is an infectious disease caused by the mumps virus. It was once very common in children, but due to vaccination it is now very uncommon.
How it is spread
Mumps is spread through infected saliva or mucus from the mouth or nose. Spread occurs by coughing, sneezing, sharing utensils with others or touching surfaces contaminated with the virus.
The symptoms generally develop 12 to 25 days after infection with the usual time being 16 to 18 days. Common symptoms of mumps are fever, loss of appetite, tiredness and headaches, followed by swelling and tenderness of one or more salivary glands. The parotid salivary glands, located in the cheek at the jaw line below the ears, are most commonly affected.
About a third of infected people do not show any symptoms at all. People infected after puberty usually have more severe disease.
Complications of mumps are uncommon but can include:
- hearing loss
- inflammation of the brain (encephalitis)
- inflammation of the covering of the brain and spinal cord (meningitis)
- inflammation of the testicles (orchitis)
- inflammation of the ovaries (oophoritis)
- spontaneous abortion.
Sterility (inability to have children) in males following orchitis is however extremely rare.
A person can be infectious 7 days before the swelling until 9 days after the swelling of the salivary glands. People are most infectious from 2 days before until 4 days after the onset of symptoms.
Who is at risk
Mumps can affect any age group, but is more severe in those post-puberty. Vaccination or one episode of the disease usually produces long-term immunity.
There is no specific treatment for mumps. Simple analgesics can help reduce pain and fever. Rest and drinking plenty of fluids is important. Warm or cold packs to the swollen glands may help.
Mumps can be prevented by immunisation. Mumps containing vaccine prevents most cases of mumps and decreases the severity of the illness if acquired.
The measles, mumps, rubella (MMR) vaccine is part of the routine childhood immunisation schedule at 12 months of age and MMRV (measles, mumps, rubella, varicella) vaccine is given at 18 months of age.
People born during or after 1966 should ensure they have received 2 doses of a mumps containing vaccine.
MMR and MMRV vaccines contain a live attenuated virus and should not be given during pregnancy or to women contemplating pregnancy. Pregnancy should be avoided for 28 days after vaccination.
How it can be controlled
People with mumps should stay away from work, school and childcare for 9 days following the onset of swelling of the salivary glands or until the swelling goes down, whichever occurs first.
Laboratories, doctors, school principals and directors of child care centres are required to report all cases of mumps to the local Centre for Disease Control.
For more information call your nearest Centre for Disease Control.
Last updated: 20 March 2020
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