Definition Mumps is a viral infection that causes swelling of the parotid gland, a salivary gland below the angle of the lower jaw. Mumps can also affect other organs, especially in adults.
What is going on in the body? The mumps virus is spread through infected respiratory secretions, for example, by sneezes and coughs. It takes about 2 to 3 weeks after a person is infected with the virus for symptoms to develop.
What are the signs and symptoms of the infection? The parotid gland just below the jaw swells in about two-thirds of all infected individuals.
Children often have very mild infections. In a man, mumps is likely to cause inflammation of the testes. On rare occasions, this leads to infertility. A pregnant woman who has the mumps may be more likely to have a miscarriage.
What are the causes and risks of the infection? A family of viruses causes mumps. Exposure to an infected person places an individual at risk of developing mumps.
What can be done to prevent the infection? The mumps vaccine or a previous mumps infection protects against infection. The vaccine can be given alone or combined with the measles and rubella vaccines, known as the MMR vaccine.
How is the infection diagnosed? Mumps can be diagnosed in two ways:
The virus can be cultured from respiratory secretions, urine, or cerebrospinal fluid.
Blood tests can show antibodies which are chemicals made by the body against the virus.
What are the long-term effects of the infection? Very rarely, sterility or death can occur. These outcomes are more likely to happen in adults with mumps. Other rare long-term complications of the mumps, usually in adults, include:
meningitis (men-in-jie-tis), or inflammation of the brain and spinal cord membranes
What are the risks to others? A person who has mumps can pass the infection on through respiratory secretions, such as nasal discharge or infected droplets spread through coughs or sneezes or saliva.
What are the treatments for the infection? Currently, there is no treatment for mumps. Children should not take aspirin when they have mumps, because it can cause a severe brain inflammation called Reye's syndrome. However, paracetamol taken according to instructions is safe.
Author: Danielle Zerr, MD Reviewer: HealthAnswers Australia Medical Review Panel Editor: Dr David Taylor, Chief Medical Officer HealthAnswers Australia Last Updated: 1/10/2001 Contributors Potential conflict of interest information for reviewers available on request
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