Mumps is an infection caused due to the mumps virus. Anyone who has not been immunized from previous mumps infection or vaccination is at risk of developing the symptoms of the disease. Before the introduction of routine vaccination program in US, mumps was common in infants, children and even young adults. It is now rare in US due to vaccination. Those getting infected the symptoms are very mild and therefore remain undetected.
The most common symptoms include fever, muscle aches, headache, tiredness and appetite loss, followed by parotitis (swollen salivary glands under the ear – either one or both the sides). The common complication is inflammation of the testicles in adolescent males, called orchitis, however rarely does it lead to fertility problems. Other rare complications are inflammation of brain or tissue that covers brain and spinal cord, called encephalitis/meningitis; inflammation of the ovaries called oophoritis or breasts called mastitis in adolescent females; spontaneous abortion, especially in early pregnancy and deafness, which may be permanent in nature. Symptoms generally appear after 16-18 days of infection, but the period may range from 12-25 days after infection.
Mumps is spread through the mucus or droplets in the throat or nose of infected person, usually when the person sneezes or coughs. Surfaces of items like toys may help in the spread of the virus. This is fomite transmission. Mumps starts in the respiratory secretions three days prior to the start of symptoms and may continue till nine days after its onset. The patient is most infectious during the first 5 days. Therefore, CDC has now recommended isolation of patients for 5 days starting from the onset of symptoms of parotitis.
Since, there is no specific treatment support should be given when needed. If someone becomes extremely ill, medical attention should be given. Doctors must be called in advance and patient should not wait in the waiting rooms. Mumps vaccine (mostly MMR) to prevent mumps is one of the best ways. Hands must be washed regularly with soap. Utensils used by the infected person should be separate, and surfaces in contact (toys, tables, doorknob, counters, etc) should be cleaned with soap solution regularly.
Two doses of vaccine given as combinations of measles-mumps-rubella (MMR) are given with a separation of 28 days to children. The first is given on or after first birthday and the second at the age of 4-6 years. Adults who work at healthcare institution, a school/university, and places where there is high exposure are given two doses, however those who have not been vaccinated are given one dose. MMR is live attenuated vaccine and shouldn’t be given to people with impaired immunity and pregnant women.