Louisiana doctor explains what mumps is and how it spreads

La. doctor discusses the mumps after 5 students at LSU come down with the virus

BATON ROUGE, La. (WAFB) - Five students at LSU have been diagnosed with the mumps, according to the university’s student health center.

"I don’t think these are the only five cases we’re going to get. We have about ten additional people that we’re taking a look at, mostly at LSU but at another university as well. So I do expect we’re going to have more cases, you’re going to hear more about mumps, so if you haven’t had those two doses of MMR, get them,” said Dr. Frank Welch with the Louisiana Department of Health (LDH).

If you haven’t been vaccinated, you should go ahead and do so, but also make sure to wash your hands and don’t share cups or any utensils that you may use.

Mumps is an extremely contagious infection caused by a virus that’s spread through saliva and mucus. They can affect any part of the body, but most commonly, mumps affects saliva-making glands below and in front of the ears.

The most obvious symptom is swelling of the salivary glands, giving the patient a “hamster-like” face.

The MMR (measles, mumps, and rubella) vaccine is often giving at an early age to build immunity and reduce the spread of mumps. The mumps vaccine is a requirement for students at LSU. There are exceptions, however, such as medical or religious reasons not to get the vaccine.

Mumps used to be common but since the introduction of the vaccine, there has been a 99% decrease in cases in the United States.

Mumps virus (Source: File photo)
Mumps virus (Source: File photo)

SYMPTOMS

The symptoms of mumps normally appear two to three weeks after the patient has been infected. However, almost 20% of people with the virus do not suffer any symptoms at all.

Initially, flu-like symptoms will appear, such as:

  • Body aches
  • Headache
  • Loss of appetite and/or nausea
  • General fatigue
  • Fever (low-grade)
A transmission electron micrograph of the mumps virus.(Photo Credit: Courtesy A. Harrison and F. A. Murphy
A transmission electron micrograph of the mumps virus.(Photo Credit: Courtesy A. Harrison and F. A. Murphy

Over the next few days, the classic symptoms of mumps will develop. The main symptom is painful and swollen parotid glands, one of three sets of salivary glands; this causes the person's cheeks to puff out. The swelling normally does not occur in one go - it happens in waves.

Other associated symptoms can include:

  • Pain in the sides of the face where it is swollen
  • Pain experienced when swallowing
  • Trouble swallowing
  • Fever (up to 103° F)
  • A dry mouth
  • Pain in joints

Rarely, adults can contract mumps. In these cases, the symptoms are generally the same, but sometimes slightly worse and complications are slightly more likely.

TREATMENT

Because mumps is viral, antibiotics cannot be used to treat it, and at present, there are no anti-viral medications that can treat mumps.

Current treatment can only help relieve the symptoms until the infection has run its course and the body has built up an immunity, much like a cold. In most cases, people recover from mumps within two weeks.

Some steps can be taken to help relieve the symptoms of mumps:

  • Consume plenty of fluids, ideally water - avoid fruit juices as they stimulate the production of saliva, which can be painful
  • Place something cold on the swollen area to alleviate the pain
  • Eat mushy or liquid food as chewing might be painful
  • Get sufficient rest and sleep
  • Gargle warm salt water
  • Take painkillers. Many painkillers are available to purchase over-the-counter or online, such as acetaminophen or ibuprofen.

SPREAD

Examples of how mumps can be spread include:

  • Sneezing or coughing
  • Using the same cutlery and plates as an infected person
  • Sharing food and drink with someone who is infected
  • Kissing
  • An infected person touching their nose or mouth and then passing it onto a surface that someone else may touch

Individuals infected with the mumps virus are contagious for approximately 15 days (six days before the symptoms start to show, and up to nine days after they start).

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