Mumps is a contagious viral disease that spreads through the germs transmitted from the coughing and sneezing of the infected person. Mumps is a condition in which the parotid salivary glands swell and cause pain. The parotid salivary glands are situated at the back of each cheek, in the area between the ear and jaw. The infection was widespread until a vaccine was introduced in the late 1960s, after which the disease has become rare, but it has not yet been eradicated. One attack of mumps usually makes a person immune to the virus and, hence, another attack occurs only in very rare cases.
Signs and symptoms
When a person is infected by the mumps virus, first a fever may occur, accompanied by headache and loss of appetite. The primary sign is a swelling and pain in the parotid glands. The cheeks and the area below the cheeks of the infected child will become swollen in the first few days, and then the swelling and pain progressively worsen. There will also be pain while swallowing. Other symptoms of mumps are a stiff neck, nausea, vomiting, drowsiness and convulsions.
Mumps in adolescent and adult males may also result in the inflammation of the testicles. Usually one testicle becomes swollen and painful about 7 to 10 days after the attack. This is accompanied by a high fever, chills, headache, nausea, vomiting, and abdominal pain that can sometimes be mistaken for appendicitis if the right testicle is affected. After 3 to 7 days, testicular pain and swelling subside, usually at about the same time that the fever abates. In some cases, both testicles are involved, but it seldom causes infertility. Besides, the disease may also affect the pancreas or, in females, the ovaries, causing pain and tenderness in parts of the abdomen.
Prevention and treatment
It can be prevented by vaccination. The vaccine is given as part of the measles-mumps-rubella (MMR) immunisation, which is usually administered to children at 12 to 15 months of age. A second dose of MMR is generally given at 4 to 6 years of age. But if a child has not had two shots of the vaccine and develops mumps, drinking lots of fluids and taking commonly available painkillers like paracetamol can bring some relief. Most patients recover without treatment; indeed, in some cases, symptoms may be so mild that they may not even be noticed. The disease may come and go with the patient just feeling a mild discomfort or slight pain in the cheeks and throat.