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Facts about the mumps

April 24, 2006

The following information about mumps is from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Web site at www.cdc.gov:

What are the symptoms of mumps?

Mumps is a viral infection. The most common symptoms are fever, headache, muscle aches, tiredness and loss of appetite followed by the onset of swollen and tender salivary glands found under the ear on one or both sides, within the cheek or near the jaw line.

More severe complications related to mumps are rare but possible. About 10 percent of mumps cases lead to meningitis, an infection of the covering of the brain and spinal cord; 20 to 30 percent of men who have reached puberty and contract mumps report painful, swollen testicles, but rarely does this lead to fertility problems; about 30 percent of the women who have reached puberty and contract mumps have painful swollen breasts and in a very few cases, inflammation of the ovaries. Hearing loss, usually permanent, is also a possible complication.

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Who can get mumps?

Anyone who is not immune, as a result of either previous mumps infection or vaccination, can get mumps.

Before the routine vaccination program was introduced in the U.S., mumps was a common illness among infants, children and young adults. Because most people have been vaccinated, mumps is now a rare disease in the U.S.

Of those people who do get mumps, up to half have very mild symptoms or no symptoms and therefore do not know they were infected with mumps.

How soon do symptoms appear after mumps is contracted?

Symptoms typically appear 16 to 18 days after infection, but this period can range from 12 to 25 days after infection.

How does mumps spread?

The mumps virus is found in mucus or droplets in the nose or throat of an infected person. The virus usually spreads when a person coughs or sneezes and another person breathes in the infected droplets. Surfaces of items, for example toys, pencils or countertops, also can spread the virus if someone who is sick touches them without washing his or her hands, and someone else then touches the same surface and then rubs his or her eyes, mouth, nose, etc.

A person with mumps is typically contagious from three days before the start of symptoms until about nine days after symptoms appear.

Does the current mumps vaccine work against the mumps virus that is causing the outbreak?

Yes. The strain of mumps virus in the Midwest is the same as the one that is found in other countries and caused a large ongoing outbreak in the United Kingdom with more than 60,000 cases.

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