Questions & Answers
Mumps - The Disease
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  1. What causes mumps?
    Mumps is an acute viral illness caused by the mumps virus.

  2. How do you know if you have mumps?

    The most common symptoms are fever, headache, muscle aches, and loss of appetite followed by swelling of the salivary glands under the ears-- on one or both sides (known as parotitis). Symptoms usually appear between 12 and 25 days after exposure to the virus. However, about one-third of infected people do not have symptoms. Parotitis occurs only in 30%-40% of individuals infected with mumps.

    Mumps is diagnosed by a combination of symptoms and physical signs and laboratory confirmation of the virus, as not all cases develop characteristic parotitis and not all cases of parotitis are caused by mumps.

  3. How serious is mumps, especially to the Armed Forces?

    In children, mumps is usually a mild disease. Adult service members may have a more serious form of the disease and more complications.

    Serious complications of mumps are more common among adults than among children. Mumps can lead to hearing loss, aseptic meningitis (infection of the covering of the brain and spinal cord) in about 10% of cases, painful, swollen testicles in 20-30% of males who have reached puberty (orchitis) but rarely does this lead to fertility problems, and painful, swollen breasts in about 30% of women who have reached puberty (mastitis), and in a very few cases, inflammation of the ovaries. An increase in spontaneous abortion (miscarriage) has been found among women who developed mumps during the first trimester of pregnancy; however, there is no evidence that mumps causes birth defects. Deafness, in one or both ears, can occur in approximately one per 20,000 reported cases of mumps.

  4. Is there a treatment for mumps?
    There is no specific treatment for mumps. Supportive care (bed rest, fluids, and fever reduction) Is given as needed.

Rate and Spread

  1. How common is mumps in the United States?
    Mumps is now rare in the United States because of childhood immunization. An estimated 212,000 cases occurred in 1964, while only 266 cases were reported in 2001. However, mumps virus is still present in the United States and the world, and the number of cases would quickly begin to climb if mumps immunization rates decline. A current outbreak in the Midwest beginning in December 2005 resulted in 605 suspect, probable, or confirmed cases as of April 2006.

  2. How does mumps spread from one person to another?
    Mumps is spread by mucus or droplets from the nose or throat of infected people, usually by sneezing or coughing. Surfaces of items (such as toys) can also spread the virus if someone who is sick touches the object without washing their hands. If someone else then touches the same surface and then rubs their nose, mouth, eyes, etc. they too may be infected (this is called transmission by fomites).

  3. How long does it take to show signs of mumps after being exposed?
    The incubation period of mumps is 14-18 days, but can range from 14-25 days

  4. Can a person get mumps more than once?
    Most people who have mumps are protected (immune) from getting mumps again. There are a small number of people who could be reinfected with mumps and have a milder illness.

  5. How long is someone with mumps contagious?
    The infectious period lasts approximately seven days. The infectious period is considered to be between three days before symptoms begin and the ninth day following the onset of symptoms.