Mumps is a highly-contagious, viral disease that is characterised by the swelling of the salivary glands in the face, resulting in a distinctly swollen jaw. It poses greater risks to adults and can even cause sterility in males who suffer from the disease in adulthood. The disease is spread through mucus or saliva. So, discharge from the nose, mouth and throat all contain the virus, which can infect others through coughing, talking closely or sneezing. If you share utensils with someone who is suffering from mumps, you could pick up the illness. Similarly, if you have the disease and touch objects, it could spread to others who later touch those areas.
Symptoms and detection
Symptoms for mumps take about 16 to 18 days to appear. In some cases, signs can appear in as early as 12 days or as late as 25 days. The primary symptom is a swollen and puffy face near the jaw area because of inflamed salivary glands. Other symptoms include some or all of the following:
- Low-grade fever
- Feeling tired or fatigued
- Loss of appetite
- Muscle pain
Occasionally, people who have the disease are not even aware of it as their symptoms are minimal or they do not experience any discomfort at all. For adult males, the virus can also affect their testicles, causing them to swell. This symptom can shows up more than a week after face swelling occurs. It is painful and in rare cases can lead to infertility. Other complications that could arise because of the viral infection include encephalitis (which is the inflammation of the brain), meningitis, deafness, inflammation of the ovaries (known as oophoritis) and mastitis in women who have reached puberty.
There is no cure for mumps; the illness usually subsides in seven to ten days and a patient makes a full recovery within a few weeks. Those infected with the virus can only use treatments to help soothe their symptoms. These include using ice packs or applying heat to the inflamed neck and groin areas, taking appropriate pain killers, eating foods that don’t require you to put too much pressure on your jaw and gargling with a warm solution of salt water.
Fortunately, even though there is no cure for the mumps, it is an entirely preventable disease with the help of the mumps vaccine. The vaccine is usually given as part of the MMR (measles, mumps, rubella) injection, which the Indian Academy of Pediatrics recommends be given to babies by the 9th month. A booster shot is then given to children around 15 months. Older children and adults too can take this shot if they have not received both doses during infancy.
Besides the vaccine, in order to prevent contracting or spreading mumps, follow hygiene standards such as washing your hands often and thoroughly with soap and water. Take time off from work or school while you are ill so as not to spread the virus. After symptoms show, it takes about five days for the disease to no longer be contagious.
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