Diseases and what they mean

What is mumps?

Mumps is an infection caused by a virus. It is sometimes called infectious parotitis, and it primarily affects the salivary glands. Mumps is mostly a mild childhood disease. It most often affects children between five and nine years old. But the mumps virus can infect adults as well. When it does, complications are more likely to be serious. As more children receive mumps vaccine, it is expected that cases will become more common in older children than in younger ones.

How is mumps spread?
Mumps virus is present throughout the world. It is spread by airborne droplets released when an infected person sneezes or coughs and by direct contact with an infected person.

What are the signs and symptoms of mumps?
About a third of children infected with the mumps virus have no symptoms. If symptoms do appear, they usually begin 14 to 21 days after a person is infected. Swelling in the salivary glands, just below and in front of the ears, is the most prominent symptom. The swelling may occur on one or both sides of the neck. Other symptoms include pain when chewing or swallowing, fever, weakness, and tenderness and swelling in the testicles.

A person who has mumps can infect others from about six days before to about nine days after swelling in the neck appears.

What are the complications of mumps?
Complications from mumps are rare, but they can be serious.
In men and teenage boys, an inflammatory condition called orchitis may cause swelling in one or both testicles. Orchitis is painful and sometimes can cause sterility. Encephalitis, meningitis, and hearing loss are other rare complications that can occur in people infected at any age.

What is the treatment for mumps?
There is no treatment for mumps.

How is mumps prevented?
People who get mumps and recover are thought to have lifelong protection against the virus. Mumps vaccines are also highly effective and safe.

    Key points
  • Mumps is transmitted in airborne droplets when infected people/children cough and sneeze.

  • About a third of people/children infected with mumps have no symptoms.

  • The most common symptom - if symptoms do develop - is swelling in the salivary glands.

  • Complications from mumps can be serious, but they are rare.
  • Mumps vaccine should be given in combination with measles and rubella vaccines (MMR).

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