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Mumps Disease - Symptoms & Vaccine

Mumps (also called infectious or epidemic parotitis) is an acute inflammation of one or both parotid glands. The disease seldom occurs in infants under age 1 because of passive immunity from maternal antibodies. About 50% of cases occur in young adults, with the remainder occurring in young children or immunocompromised adults.

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."

Peak incidence takes place during late winter and early spring. The prognosis for complete recovery is good, although some patients, especially postpubertal males, have serious complications. One attack of mumps (even with only unilateral infection) usually confers lifelong immunity.


A paramyxovirus found in the saliva of an infected person causes mumps. Transmitted by droplets or by direct contact, the virus can be detected in the saliva 6 days before to 9 days after the parotid glands swell. The disease probably is also communicable before the onset of symptoms. The incubation period ranges from 14 to 18 days.

Signs and symptoms

Mumps usually begins with two days of discomfort and an increasing temperature. This is followed by an uncomfortable feeling in the jawbone and a swelling of the parotid glands. Often the swelling occurs unevenly, on one side of the face before the other. It is only possible to get mumps in one of the glands. The body temperature may rise to 40 o C and the swelling can feel oppressive and sore. The earlobes stick out and the child's face eventually looks very swollen. The child experiences pain when opening their mouth. In mild cases the swelling may only last three to four days, but it can go on for a week or more.

Diagnostic tests 

Glandular swelling confirms the diagnosis. Serologic testing to detect the mumps antibodies can verify the diagnosis if the patient's glands don't swell. If comparisons between a saliva, urine, or CSF specimen obtained during the acute phase of illness and another specimen obtained 3 weeks later show a fourfold increase in antibodies, the patient probably had mumps. Serum amylase levels also may be elevated.


Appropriate treatment includes analgesics for pain, antipyretics for fever, and adequate fluid intake to prevent dehydration from fever and anorexia. If the patient can't swallow, treatment may include I.V. fluid replacement.


MMR immunization (vaccine) protects against measles , mumps, and rubella . It should be given to children 12-15 months old. Vaccination is repeated between 4 to 6 years of age, or between 11 and 12 years of age, if not previously given.

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