Mumps is a contagious disease caused by a virus. It typically leads to painful swelling of the parotid, or salivary, glands. This leads to puffy cheeks and a tender, swollen jaw.
Outbreaks are not common in the United States (U.S.). The number of cases varies from year to year. In 2012, 229 cases of mumps were reported, and in 2016, there were 5,748 cases, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
From January 1 to March 25, 2017, 1,965 cases were reported in 42 states.
Since the mumps vaccine was introduced, the number of cases has fallen by 99 percent. Those at highest risk of infection are young children who have not been vaccinated.
Mumps can happen in any season.
After having mumps once, the person is normally immune, and they will not get it again.
Symptoms of mumps generally begin to develop 16 to 18 days after initial infection, but this can range from 12 to 25 days. This is known as the incubation period.
- painful and swollen glands in the cheeks, neck or under the jaw
- muscle aches
- loss of appetite
- pain when swallowing
- dry mouth
The symptoms usually start to disappear after 7 to 10 days, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
Most people experience symptoms, but 15 to 20 percent of people show no clinical evidence of infection. It is possible to have mumps without knowing.
In up to 50 percent of people, symptoms are not specific to mumps and the condition resembles a respiratory infection.
The mumps virus is most likely to spread where people are crowded together, for example, in schools and nurseries.
It spreads through airborne droplets, through direct contact with saliva or respiratory secretions. It can be passed on through touching an item that someone has coughed on.
The chance of getting mumps increases as a person spends more time and has more contact with a patient.
A person who is diagnosed with mumps should stay home from work or school and avoid close contact with others until at least 5 days after the swelling starts.
To diagnose mumps, a physician will look at the symptoms, and they may order a laboratory test, especially if symptoms are unclear.
There is no cure, but the patient should rest and drink plenty of fluids, especially water.
To reduce the symptoms of pain and fever, an over-the-counter anti-inflammatory may be recommended such as ibuprofen.
Home remedies for mumps include:
- a warm or cold compress to ease pain and tenderness
- consuming foods that do not need chewing such as soups, mashed vegetables, or oatmeal
- avoiding sour foods such as citrus fruits, as these can stimulate saliva production
If the patient experiences a fever of 103 degrees Fahrenheit or 39 degrees Celsius or above, confusion or disorientation, pain in the abdomen or testicles, or difficulty eating or drinking, medical help should be sought.
Some people may experience complications with mumps.
- orchitis, or inflammation of the testicles
- encephalitis, or inflammation of the brain
- meningitis, or inflammation of the tissue that covers the brain and spinal cord
- oophoritis, or inflammation of the ovaries
- mastitis, or inflammation of breast tissue
- loss of hearing
Very rarely, it can be fatal.
There is a small possibility that if mumps occurs during pregnancy, it could affect the fetus. However, research has not confirmed this.
The measles, mumps, and rubella (MMR) vaccine can help prevent the disease.
Before the mumps vaccine was introduced, there were at least 186,000 cases each year, but the vaccine has reduced the number of cases dramatically.
The vaccine does not prevent all cases of mumps. Two doses of MMR are 88 percent effective, and one dose is 78 percent effective. Outbreaks can occur in areas where many people are vaccinated, but vaccination helps limit the size and duration of an outbreak.
Mumps is still common in many parts of the world, so people should be vaccinated against the virus before traveling.
The CDC recommends two doses of MMR, separated by at least 28 days for that all children aged 12 months and over, and adults and teenagers who are not already immune.
Anyone who was born after 1957 and who has never had mumps and has never been vaccinated is at risk for mumps.