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Mumps is a highly contagious childhood disease, usually affecting children between the ages of 5 and 12. Outbreaks of mumps have been greatly reduced due to immunization. Once vaccinated, the subject benefits from a lasting immunity. The disease is contracted primarily in winter and spring and is transmitted by droplets of saliva. The virus attaches itself mainly to the glands of the body such as the salivary glands, the parotid glands, pancreas and testes in boys, but it can also affect the nerves.


The disease can go unnoticed: this is its asymptomatic form. However, the symptoms of mumps can include:
  • initially, a phase with headache, fever, ear pain and jaw pain;
  • a lump located behind the jaw that is painful upon palpation, due to the inflammation of the parotid glands on both sides: mumps parotitis;
  • sometimes, pain in the upper abdomen or vomiting in connection with the infection of the pancreas;
  • later on, the testes may appear warm, red, increased in size and painful, with an increased fever: orchitis.


The diagnosis of mumps is made by a clinical examination and confirmation if necessary is done through a laboratory analysis. Lipase is increased in the blood sample. Other virus isolation techniques exist, but they are only used in cases of extreme doubt.


Generally, all of these symptoms gradually disappear completely although the swelling of the parotid glands may persist for two weeks. Rarely, transient effects such as hearing impairment, or a permanent decrease in the size of the testes, may be present. The treatment of mumps is primarily based on the reduction of symptoms with painkillers, resting, and the use of a jock strap for the testicles, the latter used in cases of orchitis. The affected child should not go to school until he is cured.


There is a vaccine to prevent mumps. It is offered to people who have not yet been infected and in children aged less than one year. The vaccine is combined with those against measles and rubella, and is called the MMR vaccine. Two injections are given between the ages of 9 and 12 months, and then at two years.

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