Mumps is an infection whose cause is the mumps virus. At risk for contracting the ailment are those persons who have not been immunized by either a previous infection or a vaccination. Primarily as a result of the fact that vaccination has become increasingly popular, the cases of mumps have been on the decline.
Those who have the illness however may be unaware of their affliction because the symptoms can sometimes be so mild that they are not noticed.
The Spread of Mumps
The mumps virus travels on mucus or droplets from the nose and throat of an infected person. This transferring of the virus usually occurs when the infected person is coughing or sneezing. Sometimes surfaces and objects that are frequently contacted, may also help to spread the infection if the infected person touches them with contaminated hands.
- Mumps symptoms may be annoying and uncomfortable but they normally dissipate within a few days.
- Loss of appetite accompanied by parotitis, which is the swelling on one or both sides of the salivary glands located beneath the ears are common signs of a mumps infection. Other common symptoms include; headache, fever, tiredness and pain in the muscle.
- Parotitis is the symptom that is used to determine whether an infected person is capable of spreading mumps to others. The center for disease control suggests an incubation period of five days after the emergence of this particular symptom for mumps patients.
- The period between initial infection and the emergence of mumps symptoms is normally 16-18 days. Sometimes though, the symptoms can be seen and experienced within 12-25 days after infection.
Complications of Mumps
Orchitis or testicular inflammation is the most common complication of mumps in males who have reached puberty. Persons in this category need not fear the impact on their reproductive lives since it doesn’t normally impact fertility negatively.
Encephalitis/meningitis (which is a condition that includes the inflammation of the brain and/or the tissue covering the brain and spinal cord), Inflamed ovaries (known as oophoritis) and inflamed breasts (known as mastitis) in females who have reached puberty are uncommon conditions which may be triggered by a mumps infection.
Additional rare complications include; miscarriage or spontaneous abortion especially in early pregnancy and loss of hearing which is usually permanent and irreversible.
Treatment of Mumps
Mumps symptoms may be relieved by the use of various remedies. Over the counter medication such as acetaminophen or ibuprofen are typically administered to relieve discomfort and for the reduction of fever. It is advised that for the duration of the fever, the infected person remains on bed rest. The pain caused by swollen glands may be reduced by the application of ice packs or heating pads to the affected areas.
Stronger pain medication as well as corticosteroids may be prescribed for males with orchitis. The purpose of the corticosteroids is to reduce the inflammation.
Supportive care should be given to the person who is suffering from a mumps infection. Recovery usually occurs within a few weeks however if the condition worsens, medical assistance should be sought.
The most effective defense against a mumps infection is the vaccine (MMR). Maintaining good health through exercise along with the practice of good hygiene, especially the frequent washing of hands with soap, and inculcating the same habits in children may also help. Another preventative measure is restricting the sharing of toys, and constant cleaning and disinfecting of frequently contacted surfaces.