Mumps Virus in Adults and Children – Definition

Mumps – An illness resulting from the mumps virus, which primarily infects the salivary glands and may also involve the pancreastesticles (men), ovarieS (women), and sometimes the kidneys.

The mumps virus may also invade the central nervous system, causing neuritis and encephalitis. Since the advent of the mumps vaccine in the early 1980s, mumps infections have become uncommon in the United States and now tend to occur in adults who did not have the infection as children. Infection with mumps confers lifelong immunity, as does vaccination.

Symptoms and Treatment

The mumps virus is contagious through contact with saliva, either direct or via airborne droplets. After an incubation period of 14 to 21 days, symptoms emerge that include

  • Painful swelling of the parotid salivary glands at the base of the EAR
  • Headache
  • Sore throat
  • Fever

Swollen testicles are common in boys and lower abdominal pain, reflecting ovarian swelling, is common in girls. The classic “eat a pickle” test for mumps has some merit in that eating sour foods greatly intensifies the pain. However, the doctor usually makes the diagnosis on the basis of the symptoms and history of exposure or lack of immunization.

Treatment targets symptom relief. Most people recover fully. A small percentage of people, usually adults, who acquire mumps infection develop neurosensory hearing loss that is usually temporary. Mumps infection in both testicles (bilateral testicular mumps) can cause sterility, though this is uncommon.

Though mumps encephalitis and meningitis are serious complications, they are seldom fatal and most people recover without long-term consequences.

See also CHICKENPOX; CHILDHOOD DISEASES; MEASLES.

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