Mumps has been diagnosed in our area - does my child have them?
As a parent, you may worry that your child may contract this illness, now with confirmed cases in several states. Once very common, the illness has been diagnosed for decades. In the early 1960s, hundreds of thousands of cases were reported each year. By 2012, the cases of mumps diagnosed in the United States decreased to its lowest number at 229.
There is no treatment for mumps. In most children it is fairly mild, however it can cause serious, lasting health problems. Learning about the illness, the symptoms and prevention are important steps for parents to keep their family safe.
What is mumps?
Mumps is caused by a highly contagious virus which infects the parotid glands (one pair of salivary glands).
Who can contract mumps?
Mumps usually occurs in children, but it can be caught at any age. Once contracted, a person usually has life-long immunity.
What are the symptoms?
The most common symptom is swollen, tender salivary glands under the ears on one or both sides (parotitis). This occurs in one to two thirds of people with the mumps.
Many children have no or very mild symptoms and each child may experience symptoms differently.
The most common symptoms include:
- Difficulty eating and chewing
- Head and muscle aches
- Difficulty talking
- Loss of appetite
Symptoms may resemble other conditions or illnesses. Always see your health care provider for a diagnosis.
How is mumps spread?
The virus can be spread when an infected person coughs, sneezes or talks and fluids are transferred. Mumps can also live on surfaces like doorknobs, eating utensils and soft drink cans.
When is someone with mumps contagious?
A person with mumps is most contagious from a few days before to 5 days after swollen glands occur. The disease usually takes 2 to 3 weeks to appear.
How is mumps diagnosed?
The symptoms of mumps resemble other illnesses. A physician will perform a thorough physical exam, possibly followed by laboratory testing to diagnose the disease.
What is the treatment for mumps?
There is no treatment for the disease itself. Once contracted, treatment is focused on managing the symptoms and comfort of the child. You may use pain relievers and provide plenty of fluids. Bed rest may be necessary for the first few days. While contagious, the child should not attend school or day care.
Most children recover within a few weeks. The best prevention is to vaccinate your child against the disease.