Description, Causes and Risk Factors:

ICD-10: B26.9

Alternative Name: Epidemic parotitis.

Mumps is an infection with a virus that causes swelling of the parotid glands in front of each ear. The parotid glands make saliva. Mumps is caused by the mumps virus, a type of paramyxovirus that spreads from person to person through coughs, sneezes and saliva, as well as through contact with contaminated items and surfaces (used tissues, shared drinking glasses, dirty hands that touched a runny nose).

Although mumps virus is the only agent known to cause epidemic parotitis, not all cases of parotitis are caused by mumps virus. Sporadic parotitis can also occur as a result of infection with other viral pathogens such as enteroviruses (including coxsackievirus), parvovirus B-19, adenoviruses, parainfluenza virus types 1 - 3 (PIV 1 - 3), influenza A and B, human herpesviruses 6 (HHV-6), Epstein-Barr virus (EBV), and bocavirus (HBoV) as well as infection with Staphylococcus aureus and other bacteria. Additionally, non-infectious causes of parotitis include drugs, tumors, immunologic diseases, and obstruction of the salivary duct.

Mumps is spread through close contact with an infected person. The virus can be found in the air after someone who is infected with mumps coughs or sneezes and can be inhaled. The virus can also be spread by direct contact with infected nasal or throat secretions through sharing food, drinks, cigarettes or kissing someone who has the virus. A person can spread mumps from about two days before to nine days after swelling of the cheeks and neck.

Once the mumps virus enters the body, it passes into the bloodstream and can spread to many different glands including:

    Salivary glands: Mumps causes pain and swelling in the parotid gland and in other salivary glands located under the tongue and jaw.

  • Testes: In the testes, mumps infection can cause swelling, pain, tenderness and, sometimes, permanent shrinkage (atrophy), although it rarely causes sterility.

  • Ovaries: In women, mumps infection of the ovaries can cause pain in the lower abdomen but doesn't lead to infertility.

  • Pancreas: The mumps virus may cause inflammation and infection of the pancreas and abdominal pain.

  • Brain: Once it enters the bloodstream, the mumps virus also can travel to the brain, where it may cause meningitis (inflammation and infection of membranes covering of the brain) and encephalitis (brain infection). This brain involvement (which is very rare) sometimes leads to long-term complications, such as deafness, paralysis (weakness, especially of facial muscles), hydrocephalus and seizures.

When a pregnant woman develops mumps, there may be some increased risk of fetal death and miscarriage if the mother is in her first trimester. However, the infection probably does not increase the risk of birth defects.


Symptoms usually start about 16 to 18 days after infection. Symptoms include fever, headache, muscle pain, tiredness, swollenand painful cheeks and neck, pain around the ears, difficulty swallowing, and swelling of the testicles or ovaries. Mumps canalso cause temporary deafness due to fluid in the middle ear. Persons who become seriously ill can develop swelling of the brain(encephalitis) or of the lining of the brain (meningitis), arthritis, deafness or sterility.

Mumps infection during the first trimester ofpregnancy has been linked to an increase rate of miscarriage.


Your doctor will suspect that you have mumps if you have had tender parotid swelling on both sides for at least two days and if you have a history of being exposed to someone with mumps. To confirm the diagnosis he/she may order tests which may include a blood test ortaking a sample from the throat, urine or spinal cord fluid.

Current mumps diagnostics do not satisfactorily identify cases in previously vaccinated people; thus, a negative laboratory test result for mumps cannot rule out the disease. Also, testing for alternative causes of parotitis is not routinely done. Because of this, most mumps-negative cases of parotitis lasting two days or more must still be considered suspected mumps.


There is no specific treatment for mumps. Supportive care in hospital may be needed for severe infections but most people recover at home. Symptoms such as fever and headache may be treated with acetaminophen (Tylenol®) or ibuprofen (Advil®). Warm or cold packs on the swollen glands may provide relief. Drink plenty of fluids such as water, juice and soup and get plenty rest. Avoid sour foods or sour liquids as the inflamed salivary glands are very sensitive to sour tastes.

You can prevent mumps with the mumps vaccine, which is usually given as part of the MMR (measles-mumps-rubella) combination. This live-virus vaccine generally is not recommended for pregnant women or for patients who are taking certain medications or have medical problems that suppress the immune system.

NOTE: The above information is educational purpose. The information provided herein should not be used during any medical emergency or for the diagnosis or treatment of any medical condition.

DISCLAIMER: This information should not substitute for seeking responsible, professional medical care.


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