Mumps is a contagious viral infection that affects the salivary glands that produce saliva.
Commonly affected are the parotid glands, which is one of the three pairs of salivary glands. These are located below and in front of the ears.
How Is Mumps Infected?
It's possible to obtain this viral infection when an infected person shares food or drinks with you or when he/she coughs or sneezes near you. Complications from this ailment are not that common but they can be potentially serious.
Cases of mumps were rampant until the introduction of the mumps vaccine in the 1960s. During that time, cases dropped dramatically. But since outbreaks still occur in some parts of the United States and in other countries, people are still strongly advised to get vaccination for the prevention of this disease.
So How Do You Know If You Have Mumps?
Since mumps can affect various body systems, it causes symptoms that resemble those of the flu, which include:
- belly pain
- sore throat
- poor appetite
- swollen cheeks
- aching of muscles and joints
- painful and swollen testicles
- fever ranging from 101°F (38°C) to 104°F (40°C)
- swelling and pain in the salivary glands
- pain when opening the mouth or swallowing food
- pain when consuming sour foods and beverages
It's important to note that there are some people infected with this condition that do not exhibit any symptoms. In fact, one third of people who have mumps don't have any symptoms. This is particularly true for children younger than two years old.
When a person first contracts the infection, the incubation period is about 16 to 18 days. The incubation period refers to the timeframe from when the person is first infected with the virus up to the time when the first symptoms arise. The incubation period can be as long as 25 days.
Infected people can spread the virus one to two days before the start of the symptoms and five to nine days after. It's imperative to consult the doctor immediately if you experience any of the the symptoms listed above.
• To diagnose this condition, doctors often look at the:
- history of exposure to the disease
- presence of swelling of the parotid glands
- other related symptoms
• The doctor will probe if the patient has been exposed to another person who has this infection.
• He/she will also perform a test like the enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay (ELISA, EIA) to find out if it's really mumps and to rule out the possibility of having another medical condition that may be causing the symptoms.
• The mumps virus can also be identified through viral culture of samples of saliva, urine, or cerebrospinal fluid. These may be obtained through a lumbar puncture.
As for treatment, rest and care at home are required. Hospital stay is only recommended for severe cases.