Mumps is a classic infectious disease affecting mainly the salivary glands, but also other organs and tissues leading to many possible complications. However, modern medicine knows effective vaccination, which makes the mumps much rarer than in the past.
The disease is caused by a mumps virus. This virus spreads very easily as it is an airborne virus, which infects people when inhaling it. After subduing the disease, we gain lifelong immunity and the infection does not return.
Symptoms and complications
The disease manifests with fever and affection of salivary glands, especially the parotid glands. The glands enlarge, they are painful to the touch and the patient usually feels pain during swallowing. The possible complications include affection of other tissues. The virus may attack brain meninges causing viral meningitis with fever, headache, nausea and vomiting. In males, the infection can affect the testicles resulting in their inflammation, swelling and testicular pain. Sometimes the infection can cause sterility, but this is a very rare situation. Pancreatic gland may be also irritated and relatively rarely this may manifest as a bout of acute pancreatitis. Quite unpleasant is an infection of pregnant women as the mumps virus causes miscarriages when attacking the fetus in the first trimester.
The diagnosis is usually easy to make in a child with painfully swollen salivary glands. When the situation is unclear, it is possible to do blood tests, where we may find elevated concentration of salivary amylase. This enzyme is secreted from the salivary glands and its increased concentration in mumps is due to higher release from the damaged cells. In addition, serological examination of the blood may detect antibodies against the mumps virus.
The best prevention is vaccination. It is an effective way how to protect the child from the infection and in countries with a compulsory vaccination program, the mumps have almost disappeared.