Mumps or Epidemic Parotitis is a viral illness caused by a paramyxovirus of the genus Rubulavirus (mumps virus); that usually spreads through saliva and can infect many parts of the body, especially the parotid salivary glands. This disease is also known as salivary gland infections.
SIGNS and SYMPTOMS
Cases of mumps may start with a fever of up to 103° Fahrenheit (39.4° Celsius), as well as a headache and loss of appetite. The well-known hallmark of mumps is swelling and pain in the parotid glands near the jaw line below the ears which may give an infected person a “chipmunk cheeks.” The glands usually become increasingly swollen and painful over a period of 1 to 3 days. The pain gets worse when swallowing, talking, chewing or drinking acidic juices (like orange juice).
Both the left and right parotid glands may be affected, with one side swelling a few days before the other, or only one side may swell. In rare cases, mumps will attack other groups of salivary glands instead of the parotids. If this happens, swelling may be noticed under the tongue, under the jaw, or all the way down to the front of the chest.
The mumps virus is contagious and spreads in tiny drops of fluid from the mouth and nose of someone who is infected. It can be passed to others through sneezing, coughing, or even laughing. The virus can also spread to other people through direct contact. Surfaces of items (e.g. toys) can also spread the virus if someone who is sick touches them without washing their hands, and someone else then touches the same surface and then rubs their eyes, mouth, nose etc. (this is called fomite transmission).
People who have mumps are most contagious from 2 days before symptoms begin to 6 days after they end. The virus can also spread from people who are infected but have no symptoms.
INCUBATION and DURATION
The incubation period for mumps can be 12 to 25 days, but the average is 16 to 18 days.
Children usually recover from mumps in about 10 to 12 days. It takes about 1 week for the swelling to disappear in each parotid gland, but both glands don't usually swell at the same time.
TREATMENT OF MUMPS
Prior to the development of a vaccine mumps was considered to be a part of growing up for many children.
Apart from staying in bed while the swelling and temperature is at its highest, mumps demands no special attention.
At home, monitor and keep track of your temperature. You can use nonaspirin fever medications such as acetaminophen or ibuprofen to bring down a fever. These medicines will also help relieve pain in the swollen parotid glands. Unless instructed by the doctor, aspirin should not be used in children with viral illnesses because its use in such cases has been associated with the development of Reye syndrome, which can lead to liver failure and death.
A patient or infected person can also soothe the swollen parotid glands with either warm or cold packs. Eat a soft, bland diet that does not require a lot of chewing and drink plenty of fluids. Avoid eating tart or drinking acidic fruit juices (like orange juice, grapefruit juice, or lemonade) that make parotid pain worse. Water, decaffeinated soft drinks, and tea are better tolerated.
Because mumps is caused by a virus, it cannot be treated with antibiotics. However, there is a potent herbal treatment for this disease.
Reishi mushrooms are a very good herbal treatment for mumps. This is because they have anti-bacterial propensities and are very good in removing the bacteria of mumps. The infected person should be given 250 grams of these mushrooms thrice daily for a week and the symptoms of mumps would be resolved.
WHEN TO CALL A DOCTOR?
Call the doctor if you suspect that your have a mumps. If you had been diagnosed with mumps, keep track of your temperature and call the doctor if goes above 101° Fahrenheit (38.3° Celsius).
Because mumps can also involve the brain and its membranes, call the doctor immediately if you have any of the following: stiff neck, convulsions (seizures), extreme drowsiness, severe headache, or changes of consciousness. Watch for abdominal pain that can mean involvement of the pancreas and involvement of the ovaries (if you’re a girl). If you’re a boy, watch for high fever with pain and swelling of the testicles.
COMPLICATIONS OF MUMPS
Most people who have mumps recover completely. But some people get complications that can affect their health. These complications are potentially serious, but rare. These include:
- Orchitis: This inflammatory condition causes swelling of one or both testicles. It is painful and occurs in up to 20% of cases in post pubertal males. Although it is frequently bilateral, it rarely causes sterility (the inability to father a child). It usually appears 7 to 10 days after salivary glands swelling, but it can occur at the same time or even before this symptom appears.
When a male with mumps develops orchitis, symptoms can include: shaking chills, high fever of 38° Celsius or above, vomiting, headache and testicular pain. Generally, it last 3 to 7 days.
Symptoms of pain can be eased using over-the-counter (OTC) painkillers, such as paracetamol or ibuprofen. If the pain is particularly severe, you should contact your GP (general physician) who may prescribe a stronger painkiller for you.
Applying cold compresses to your testicles, and wearing supportive athletic underwear, may also help to reduce any pain.
An estimated 50% of men who get mumps will notice some shrinkage of their testicles. An estimated 7-13% of men will experience some drop in their sperm count (the amount of healthy sperm that their body can produce). However, this is rarely large enough to cause infertility.
- Oophoritis: It is the inflammation (swelling) of your ovaries or egg sacs which can cause symptoms of lower-abdominal pain, high fever of 38° Celsius or above and vomiting. Its symptoms usually pass once the body has fought off the underlying mumps infection. About 5% of adolescent and adult females who got mumps get this complication. Fertility doesn't seem to be affected.
- Mastitis: It is the inflammation of one or more mammary glands within the breast, usually in a lactating woman. It can be felt as a hard, sore spot within the breast. It has been reported in as many as 31% of female patients older than 15 years who have mumps. Treatment is by rest, applying warm compresses to the affected area, and for those who are lactating, nursing or expressing milk frequently. Women with mastitis recurring during nursing could benefit by consulting a lactation expert through their obstetrician, or midwife.
- Miscarriage: Women who develop a mumps infection during the first 12-16 week of pregnancy have a slightly higher risk of miscarriage. There is no evidence that mumps causes birth defects if you get mumps later on in your pregnancy.
- Pancreatitis: This is an inflammation or swelling of the pancreas which occurs in 5% of cases. The most common symptom of pancreatitis is the sudden onset of pain in the centre of your upper abdomen. Other symptoms of acute pancreatitis can include nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, loss of appetite, high fever of 38° Celsius or higher, tenderness of the abdomen and less commonly is the yellowing of the skin and the whites of the eyes (jaundice).
Although pancreatitis that is associated with mumps is usually mild, admission to hospitals may be recommended so that the functions of your body can be supported until your pancreas recovers.
The 3 rare but serious complications of mumps are:
- Deafness of permanent hearing loss in one or both ears; which occurs in 1 in every 15,000 cases. Unfortunately there is no treatment that can be used to reverse hearing loss.
- Encephalitis: It is an inflammation (swelling) of the brain, which is a serious complication but isn’t common. It can damage your brain and cause the person having this to lose coordination in their arms and legs, making walking difficult which is called ataxia.
- Meningitis: It is an infection and inflammation of the lining of the brain and spinal cord. It may appear 3 to 10 days after the onset of mumps. It is a serious disease, but in connection with mumps, it is usually mild. However, it still requires close attention and special care of the patient.
Symptoms of encephalitis include sudden fever, headache, vomiting, visual sensitivity to light, stiff neck and back, confusion, drowsiness, clumsiness, unsteady gait, and irritability. Loss of consciousness, poor responsiveness, seizures, muscle weakness, sudden severe dementia and memory loss can also be found in patients with encephalitis.
Anyone experiencing symptoms of encephalitis should see a doctor immediately. Mumps-associated encephalitis occurs in less than 2 per 100,000 cases, and approximately 1% of encephalitis cases are fatal.
It can occur if the mumps virus spreads through your bloodstream to infect your central nervous system. Like encephalitis, meningitis is a rare complication of mumps. Its symptoms appear in the first week after the parotid glands begin to swell and may include high fever, headache, aversion to bright light, nausea and vomiting, drowsiness, convulsions, typically a stiff neck (leaving patients unable to touch their chest with their chin and causing the head to bend slightly backwards) and other signs of brain involvement.
LONG TERM EFFECTS OF MUMPS:
Permanent sequelae such as paralysis, seizures, cranial nerve palsies, aqueductal stenosis, and hydrocephalus are rare, as are deaths due to mumps.
Mumps can be prevented by vaccination. The vaccine can be given alone or as part of the measles-mumps-rubella (MMR) immunizations, which is usually given to children at 12 to 15 months of age. A second dose of MMR is generally given at 4 to 6 years of age. As is the case with all immunization schedules, there are important exceptions and special circumstances.
If they haven't already received them, students who are attending colleges and other post-high school institutions should be sure they have had two doses of the MMR vaccine. During a measles outbreak, your doctor may recommend additional shots of the vaccine, if your child is 1 to 4 years old. Your doctor will have the most current information.
NOTES: After a case of mumps it is very unusual to have a second bout because one attack of mumps almost always gives lifelong protection against another. However, other infections can also cause swelling in the salivary glands, which might lead a parent to mistakenly think a child has had mumps more than once.