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Health eTips is produced by the staff of the St. Charles County Department of Public Health. The department consists of three divisions - Environmental Health and Protection, Health Services and Humane Services - that provide a wide range of services focused on enhancing the well-being of this community.

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Dec 06

What is the Mumps?

Posted on December 6, 2016 at 9:41 AM by Doug Bolnick

WHAT IS THE MUMPS?


Several colleges and universities around the country, including one in Missouri, have identified a significant number of cases of the mumps among their students and staffs over the past year. Caused by a virus, the mumps is most commonly recognized by the swelling of the salivary glands in the neck below the ear. Although people of any age can contract the illness, it is most often associated with children and young adults between the ages of 5 and 25.

As these college students return home for semester breaks, we offer the following information about the illness and how you can take steps to protect yourself and your family.

WHAT ARE THE SYMPTOMS?

The most recognized symptom of the mumps is the appearance of the swelling along the sides of the neck. Individuals suffering from the mumps may also experience:
  • Fatigue and general malaise
  • Headache
  • Fever
  • Pain when opening or closing the jaw and/or earache
  • Loss of appetite
These symptoms usually will appear two to three weeks after exposure to the virus and generally last about one week. Please note that approximately one-third of those infected will not show any symptoms.

Complications
In addition to these common symptoms, there are more serious complications associated with the mumps. The illness can cause problems in the nervous system such as encephalitis (inflammation of the brain) and meningitis (inflammation of the brain and spinal column). Additionally, in rare cases, deafness in one or both ears can occur.

A more common complication is the painful swelling of sexual organs in young men or women who have reached puberty. This swelling in the testicles of males and breasts or ovaries of women can, in extreme cases, lead to the possibility of sterility.

If you think that you may have been exposed to the mumps, 
or if you display symptoms associated with the disease,
please contact your medical provider.

HOW IS THE MUMPS SPREAD?
The mumps is spread through direct contact with saliva and/or discharge from the nose or throat of infected individuals. An infected person can spread the virus a few days prior to, and up to five days after, they show symptoms. Here are a few ways the illness is spread:
  • Close contact with an infected individual (talking, touching, kissing, etc.)
  • Coughing and sneezing
  • Sharing of eating or drinking utensils
  • Touching infected surfaces, then touching your nose or mouth before washing your hands with soap

HOW CAN WE PREVENT THE MUMPS, AND HOW IS IT TREATED?
MMR Vaccine
The Measles, Mumps and Rubella (MMR) vaccine is available to protect against these illnesses. This vaccination is required for school attendance in Missouri and is administered in two stages:
  • The first shot is usually given on or after a child’s first birthday (12-15 months of age).
  • The second is given when the child is 4 to 6 years old (prior to entry into kindergarten or first grade).

The mumps vaccine has been available since 1967 and has been shown to be approximately 90 percent effective in preventing the illness when a person gets both doses (effectiveness for those who receive just one dose is about 78 percent). Generally, those who have had the mumps once are immune from further infection, but cases of second occurrences have been recorded.

Treatment
As mumps is spread by a virus, there are no medications available to treat or cure the illness. However, medical professionals can provide support to treat the symptoms and minimize opportunities for the illness to spread. This supportive treatment includes:
  • isolation
  • bed rest
  • administering fluids
  • reducing swelling
  • fever reduction

WHERE CAN I FIND MORE INFORMATION ABOUT THE MUMPS OR THE MMR VACCINE?

FOR ST. CHARLES COUNTY MEDICAL PROVIDERS
If you have any patients who have recorded positive test results for the mumps, or if you diagnose any patients with this disease, please alert the St. Charles County Communicable Disease program by completing the reporting form on this page or by calling us at 636-949-7319.