Mumps is a contagious viral infection that affects the parotid glands. The parotid glands are one of three pairs of salivary glands that are located below and in front of your ears. When a person develops mumps, they will experience painful swelling in one or both of the parotid glands. Mumps may also be known as a parvovirus infection.
Mumps are less common in the United States now due to the availability of a vaccination for mumps, called the MMR (Measles, Mumps and Rubella) vaccine. This vaccination is mandatory. Therefore, the chances of contracting mumps from another person are very low. If you have not been vaccinated for mumps or have never had mumps before, you are more susceptible to the disease.
Mumps are known to cause signs and symptoms such as headaches, face pain, fever, muscle aches, and sore throat. Sometimes, young men and adult men who develop mumps may experience swelling and pain in the testicles. Mumps is more common in children than any other age group. The complications of mumps may include sterility in men, inflammation of the brain or the membrane covering the brain and spinal cord, inflammation of the breasts or ovaries in women, and deafness. These complications can be serious, but they are often rare.
Some people who have been infected with the mumps virus never experience any signs or symptoms. Some people may only experience very mild signs or symptoms. When people do experience signs and symptoms, they usually appear within about two or three weeks after being exposed to the mumps virus. They may include swollen, painful salivary glands on one or both sides of your face, fever, headache, weakness and fatigue, loss of appetite, or pain while chewing or swallowing.
The mumps virus can spread quickly. Therefore, it is recommended by the Centers for Disease Control that anyone with mumps be isolated for five days after swelling begins. Most people who develop the mumps virus make a full recovery and develop immunity for it and never get it again.
The best way to protect yourself from the mumps virus is to have the MMR vaccine. The mumps virus spreads when a person who is infected with the mumps virus exposes you via coughing, sneezing, etc. which releases infected droplets that are inhaled by another person. Other ways to protect yourself from the mumps virus include washing your hands often (especially after blowing your nose, sneezing, or coughing), not sharing towels, drinking glasses, eating utensils, computer keyboards, or telephones with someone who has the mumps virus, covering your mouth when coughing or sneezing, and avoiding contact with people who have the mumps.