Mumps is a human disease that occurs worldwide. It is considered an acute viral illness that is acquired by respiratory droplets. Mumps have the distinction of being a childhood disease at present time, but this was not always the case. At one time, mumps was known as a disease affecting armies. During World War I, mumps was one of the leading causes of hospitalization of soldiers. It actually was reported among military personnel up until 1986. Mumps is generally a mild disease, but can have a serious side occasionally.

With the use of vaccines, the number of reported cases had dropped substantially since 1967. But in 1986 and 1987, there was a resurgence of the disease. Most of the resurgence of incidents of mumps occurred in older school age and college age youth that were born before recommendations of routine mumps vaccinations. It was found that a single dose of vaccine did not always prevent the transmission of the disease, linked to possible vaccine failure. In 1989, recommendations encouraging persons born after 1957 to receive a second mumps vaccination was implemented. Since that time, the number of cases reported has declined from 5,712 cases in 1989 to 231 cases in 2001. The mumps vaccine is part of the MMR that children receive as part of the scheduled childhood vaccinations.

Transmission of mumps occurs by direct contact or airborne transmission of infected droplets or saliva from the nose or throat. This would include coughing or sneezing of an infected person. The infectious period is considered to be 3 days before to the 4th day of active disease. The incubation period of mumps is 14-18 days (range, 14-25 days).

Prior to the evidence of the most common symptom called parotitis, swelling of single or bilateral paratoid salivary glands just under the jaw, one may notice low-grade fever, muscle aches, fatigue, and headaches. The parotitis is usually seen in the first 2 days and may be noted as an earache or tenderness in the angle of the jaw. Symptoms usually lessen after 1 week and are gone in 10 days. There are approximately one-third of infected people who do not have symptoms.

Complications of mumps may include meningitis or encephalitis, inflammation of the testicles or ovaries, inflammation of the pancreas, and deafness. If deafness occurs, it is usually permanent.

Prevention is the best for avoiding this disease and can be accomplished by children receiving the vaccine as recommended. Mumps is part of the MMR that children receive at 12-15 months of age and repeated between their 4th and 6th birthdays, prior to entering school.

If any questions regarding this disease or the vaccination schedule, please contact Winneshiek County Public Health at 563-382-4662.