Mumps part 1

Mumps is a disease caused by a virus that usually spreads through saliva and can infect many parts of the body, especially the parotid salivary glands. These glands, which produce saliva for the mouth, are found toward the back of each cheek, in the area between the ear and jaw. In cases of mumps, these glands typically swell and become painful.

The disease has been recognized for several centuries, and medical historians argue over whether the name "mumps" comes from an old word for "lump" or an old word for "mumble."

Mumps was common until the mumps vaccine was licensed in 1967. Before the vaccine, more than 200,000 cases occurred each year in the United States. Since then the number of cases has dropped to fewer than 1,000 a year, and epidemics have become fairly rare. As in the pre-vaccine era, most cases of mumps are still in kids ages 5 to 14, but the proportion of young adults who become infected has been rising slowly over the last two decades. Mumps infections are uncommon in kids younger than 1 year old.

After a case of mumps it is very unusual to have a second bout because one attack of mumps almost always gives lifelong protection against another. However, other infections can also cause swelling in the salivary glands, which might lead a parent to mistakenly think a child has had mumps more than once.

Signs and Symptoms

Cases of mumps may start with a fever of up to 103° Fahrenheit (39.4° Celsius), as well as a headache and loss of appetite. The well-known hallmark of mumps is swelling and pain in the parotid glands, making the child look like a hamster with food in its cheeks. The glands usually become increasingly swollen and painful over a period of 1 to 3 days. The pain gets worse when the child swallows, talks, chews, or drinks acidic juices (like orange juice).

Both the left and right parotid glands may be affected, with one side swelling a few days before the other, or only one side may swell. In rare cases, mumps will attack other groups of salivary glands instead of the parotids. If this happens, swelling may be noticed under the tongue, under the jaw, or all the way down to the front of the chest.

Mumps can lead to inflammation and swelling of the brain and other organs, although this is not common. Encephalitis (inflammation of the brain) and meningitis (inflammation of the lining of the brain and spinal cord) are both rare complications of mumps. Symptoms appear in the first week after the parotid glands begin to swell and may include: high fever, stiff neck, headache, nausea and vomiting, drowsiness, convulsions, and other signs of brain involvement.

Mumps in adolescent and adult males may also result in the development of orchitis, an inflammation of the testicles. Usually one testicle becomes swollen and painful about 7 to 10 days after the parotids swell. This is accompanied by a high fever, shaking 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 passes. In some cases, both testicles are involved. Even with involvement of both testicles, sterility is only a rare complication of orchitis.

Additionally, mumps may affect the pancreas or, in females, the ovaries, causing pain and tenderness in parts of the abdomen.

In some cases, signs and symptoms are so mild that no one suspects a mumps infection. Doctors believe that about 1 in 3 people may have a mumps infection without symptoms.