Last week, UK’s University Health Service saw a couple of isolated cases of mumps, a contagious virus whose tell-tale symptom is swelling near the neck and jaw.
Although the overwhelming majority of people who get mumps recover completely, it’s important to know the signs of the virus and what to do if you think you have it.
What is mumps?
Mumps is an illness caused by the mumps virus. It’s easily spread by airborne droplets from the upper respiratory tract.
Mumps typically starts with a few days of fever, headache, fatigue and loss of appetite, followed by swollen salivary glands, or swelling near the neck and jaw. Since the introduction of the mumps vaccine, cases of mumps in the U.S. are uncommon.
What are the symptoms of mumps?
Many children have no symptoms or very mild symptoms. The following are the most common symptoms of mumps that may be seen in both adults and children:
- Discomfort in the salivary glands (in front of the ears), which may become swollen and tender.
- Difficulty chewing.
- Pain and tenderness of the testicles.
- Muscle aches.
- Loss of appetite.
The symptoms of mumps may look like other conditions or medical problems. Always consult your doctor for a diagnosis.
What should you do if you think you have mumps?
- UK students: Students who have swollen parotid salivary glands should make an appointment with UHS to be evaluated or see their family physician. Students can go online and make a clinician appointment via the Student Health Link on the LinkBlue/My UK portal or by calling 859-323-APPT (2778) Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.
- UK faculty and staff: If you have symptoms, see your local clinician, or if you can’t get an appointment with your regular clinician and have UK HMO, PPO, or EM, you can call for an appointment at the UK Health Plans Urgent Care Clinic at 859-323-SICK (7425).
- Non-UK employees: If you’re not a UK employee, but are experiencing symptoms, contact your primary care physician and make an appointment.
If you have any of the symptoms of mumps, avoid prolonged close contact with other people for five days after your salivary glands began to swell. You should not go to work or classes during this period.
In addition to staying away from others, you can help prevent the virus from spreading by covering your mouth and nose with a tissue when you cough or sneeze, washing hands frequently, and wearing a mask if you have to be around others.
What complications are associated with mumps?
Complications of mumps occur more frequently among adults than children, and may include:
- Meningitis or encephalitis. Inflammation of the membrane that covers the brain and spinal cord or inflammation of the brain.
- Orchitis. Inflammation of one or both testicles.
- Mastitis. Inflammation of breast tissue.
- Oophoritis. Inflammation of one or both ovaries.
- Pancreatitis. Inflammation of the pancreas.
How is mumps diagnosed?
In addition to a complete medical history and medical exam, your healthcare provider may also take a swab of the side of your mouth to confirm the diagnosis.
What is the treatment for mumps?
Treatment is usually limited to medications for pain and plenty of fluids. Sometimes bedrest is necessary the first few days. According to the CDC, adults should stay home from work for five days after glands begin to swell. Children should stay out of school until symptoms have subsided. Both adults and children with mumps symptoms should minimize contact with other people who live in their homes. Good basic hygiene practices, such as thorough hand-washing, covering the mouth when sneezing or coughing, and regularly cleaning frequently-touched surfaces, are also important in disease control.
How can mumps be prevented?
The measles, mumps and rubella (MMR) is a childhood combination vaccination against mumps, measles and rubella. The MMR provides immunity for most people. People who have had the mumps are immune for life.
If you have not previously been vaccinated or if you are unsure if you have received two doses of the MMR vaccine, we are recommending that you get vaccinated.
Usually, the first dose of the MMR vaccine is given when a child is 12 to 15 months old, and a second dose is given at 4 to 6 years of age. However, if 28 days have passed since the first dose was given, a second dose may be given before the age of 4.