Mumps is a viral disease caused by a virus that shares the same name. It was once a common childhood disease, although outbreaks do occur from time to time, and is still quite common in developing countries. The most noticeable symptom of this disease is a painful swelling of the salivary glands. Other symptoms are fever, headache, fatigue and rash. It can also cause painful testicle swelling in boys and men. About 20% of sufferers will have no symptoms at all. In most cases the disease passes without any major complications, but mumps can cause infertility or reduced fertility in men, organ infection, encephalitis and mild meningitis, in rare cases. It is also dangerous to unborn babies and causes abortion in 27% of fetuses during the first trimester. Let’s find out how mumps is prevented and treated.
Fortunately, a vaccine for this disease is available. It was developed by Maurice Hilleman in 1963 after his daughter contracted the disease. It is commonly given as a part of the MMR (measles, mumps and rubella) immunization, but is also available in a separate single vaccine. It is usually given to infants around 1 year of age with a booster shot 3-4 years later. This provides lifelong immunity in most cases.
There is no treatment for mumps after the disease has been contracted (the vaccine is only beneficial before an infection). In the vast majority of cases the disease passes without complications. The only treatment required in these cases is usually pain management. This may include acetaminophen/paracetamol for pain and fever relief along with ice or heat packs for neck/testicular pain. Gargling with salt water may also relieve throat pain and patients usually prefer soft foods and extra fluids during infection. It is important to avoid acidic foods and beverages to prevent stimulation of the salivary glands.