Mumps is an acute viral illness that causes a painful inflammation and swelling of the saliva glands. These glands include the parotid, submaxillary, sublingual and buccal salivary glands. Mumps used to be a common infectious disease of childhood until a vaccine was developed in 1967 to immunize children against the virus that causes the disorder. However, recent outbreaks of mumps among adolescents and young adults have raised questions about lifetime immunity from the vaccine.
Mumps is a very contagious viral illness that has an incubation period of about 14-24 days after exposure. The onset of this illness is characterized by headache, loss of appetite, a general feeling of ill-health (malaise), and a low to moderate fever. Within 24 hours the temperature may suddenly rise to about 104 degrees Fahrenheit and be associated with a painful swelling of the parotid glands in front of the ears and under the jaw. In most cases, the salivary glands on both sides of the jaw are affected. The submaxillary and sublingual glands (principally in the floor of the mouth) and the buccal glands (that are scattered beneath the mucous membranes of the cheeks) may also be swollen and tender. The skin over the affected area may be stretched, opening the mouth can be difficult, and there may be a sensitivity to pressure on the jaw. Chewing and swallowing is painful and foods that are sour or acidic should be avoided. The disease lasts between 5 to 6 days and usually results in a lifelong immunity to the virus.
Mumps can involve other organs especially in those people past puberty. Males who contract mumps can develop a painful inflammation of the testes. This inflammation can damage the testes and may cause sterility. Females with mumps can develop inflammation of the ovaries (oophoritis).
Mumps is a contagious viral disease that is transmitted through saliva by direct contact, or in the form of airborne droplets from the nose, throat or mouth. The virus enters the body through the upper respiratory tract.
Since 1967 when an effective and safe vaccine was developed, mumps has become uncommon. It affects males and females in equal numbers. Among those not immunized, the disease strikes most often in children between the ages of five and fifteen, but adults can also be affected. In recent years outbreaks of mumps on college campuses in the United States have raised question about long-term immunity from the mumps vaccine. The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) is trying to determine whether people during specific years should be re-vaccinated.
Mumps is a self-limiting disease that requires little or no treatment. A soft, bland diet may help the pain caused by chewing. Acetominophen (e.g.,Tylenol), given every 4 hours, will help reduce the fever and pain. Aspirin should NOT be given to children with Mumps because it can cause Reye's Syndrome. (For more information on this disorder, choose "Reye Syndrome" as your search term in the Rare Disease Database.)
Cases of the Mumps have been greatly reduced with the introduction of the live attenuated mumps virus vaccine in 1967. All children should be immunized with this vaccine. It can be given singularly or together with the measles and rubella vaccine (MMR), around 15 months of age.
Because of recent outbreaks of measles, mumps, and rubella in those persons previously immunized, lifetime immunity with only one vaccination is in question. It may be advisable to ask a pediatrician whether a second immunization be given before entering school. Adults who have been exposed to mumps or question their immunity to the mumps virus, should consider being immunized as a precaution.
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Schlegel M, et al., Comparative efficacy of three mumps vaccines during disease outbreak in Eastern Switzerland: cohort study. BMJ. 1999;319:352.
Hinman A, Eradication of vaccine-preventable diseases. Annu Rev Public Health. 1999;20:211-29.
Kaplan K, et al., Mumps in the workplace. Further evidence of the changing epidemiology of a childhood vaccine-preventable disease. JAMA. 1988;260:1434-38.
Wharton M, et al., A large outbreak of mumps in the postvaccine era. J Infect Dis. 1988;158:1253-60.
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