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Mumps

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.

Risks

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.

Prevention

What can be done to prevent the infection?

A previous infection with mumps virus protects against subsequent infection.
However, the primary strategy for prevention is vaccination. A safe, effective vaccine against mumps has been available since the 1970s. It is routinely recommended for children and is given in combination with measles, rubella, and chickenpox vaccines as MMRV. The first dose should be given at 12-15 months of age and the second at 4-6 years.

Diagnosed

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.
However, more often the diagnosis is simply assumed from the symptoms and signs, especially if mumps is known to be present in the community. Mumps outbreaks still occur occasionally, even though the vaccine has reduced circulation of the virus to a very low level compared to the years before it was available.

Long Term Effects

What are the long-term effects of the infection?

Very rarely, sterility or death occur. These outcomes are more likely to happen in adults with mumps.
Other long-term complications of the mumps include:
  • arthritis
  • kidney problems
  • inflammation of the thyroid or pancreas
  • hearing loss
  • meningitis, or inflammation of the brain and spinal cord membranes. Viral meningitis does not take the same rapid, life-threatening course as bacterial meningitis.

Other Risks

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.

Treatments

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.

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