Mumps is a highly contagious disease that is on the rise. Symptoms include uncomfortable swelling on one or both sides of the cheeks. These swollen salivary glands are the most characteristic sign of mumps, which is caused by a virus and usually spread through coughing. It occurs most often in children and teenagers 5 to 14 years old but anyone can catch the mumps virus at any age.
In addition to swelling, the region can become painful when touched or while chewing, especially when consuming foods that stimulate the release of salivary juices or drinking orange juice or other juices that are acidic. Other symptoms may include
In 1967, the mumps vaccination program started, and then in 1971, a three-vaccine dose called MMR (mumps, measles and rubella) was made available to the public. This had a dramatic impact on reducing the number of reported mumps cases. Unfortunately, mumps cases are on the rise once again.
The typical schedule for the MMR vaccine is:
In areas where there is an outbreak, some physicians are recommending that children receive a third dose of the MMR vaccine. States such as Washington, Arkansas, and Missouri have seen a significant increase in mumps in 2016 and early 2017. In Texas, cases are at a 20-year high.
The MMR vaccine protects against currently circulating mumps strains, but the effectiveness of the vaccine may decrease over time. That’s one reason cases may be on the upsurge. Another reason may be that some areas have a higher number of unvaccinated children, allowing the disease to spread quickly throughout a population.
Outbreaks can still occur in highly vaccinated U.S. communities, particularly in close-contact settings. In recent years, outbreaks have occurred in schools, colleges, and camps. However, high vaccination coverage helps limit the size, duration, and spread of mumps outbreaks.
A child with mumps will become contagious beginning a day or two before the swelling begins, and the contagious period will continue for about 5 days after the swelling has started. (It’s interesting to note that approximately one third of those infected with mumps do not show obvious swelling.) As a general guideline, keep your child with mumps away from school and child-care for 9 days after the gland swelling has begun.
If your child has the mumps, notify your doctor if your child’s condition becomes worse, especially if she develops abdominal pain, shows an unusual lack of energy, or (for boys) his testicles become painful.