Mumps, also known as ‘epidemic parotitis’, is a condition that is largely not a problem in the Western world thanks to the introduction of many medical supplies such as vaccinations and the means by which to give them. This was once a common problem particularly among school children and would lead to many days off. However thanks to medical supplies such as the vaccinations this is no longer the case, though it still is relatively prevalent in third world countries.
The name ‘mumps’ comes undoubtedly from the appearance caused by the disease. Here those infected will find that their glands around the jaw and around the neck swell up to create the appearance of a large swollen lower jaw. This is the main and most visible symptom of mumps and is known by its technical term of ‘parotid inflammation’. This does not occur in every case of mumps but around 65% infections – and 95% of those that show symptoms of any kind. The reason for this name is that it is the salivary glands (the glands in our mouth that cause the production of saliva) and in particular the parotid gland. In some cases this inflammation will appear unilateral meaning that it is only present on one side though it is more commonly bilateral (around 90% of cases are bilateral).
This parotid inflammation (known also as parotitis) can then cause other unpleasant side effects. For example it might cause pain around the local area, especially when pressure is applied or when the patient is chewing. In some cases the swelling might of course also prevent the individual from being able to speak easily.
Other symptoms are separate from the parotitis. These include fever, headache and orchitis – orchitis being the painful inflammation of the testicles in a similar vein to the swelling caused in the jaw. Patients may also suffer a dry mouth, sore face and ears and sometimes complete loss of voice. The patient may also exhibit lethargy and potentially anorexia.
The condition is normally self limiting and will clear up on its own after a short period of time. However in some rare cases the infection can spread to other organs and thereby cause more serious complications. For example it has been known to spread to the brain where it can cause encephalitis (swelling of the brain). In these cases it is advisable for the patient to seek help from medical professionals who will have the necessary medical supplies to treat the condition. It is also advisable for those going through pregnancy to seek the help of medical professionals as mumps have been known to cause abortions.
The majority of the time however the disease will be prevented in the West by the mumps vaccine invented by Maurice Hilleman. Generally this vaccine is administered to children around 4-6 years and then again around 12-15 which will help provide lifetime protection. Mumps provides a great example of how good medical supplies and research in Western countries has resulted in a condition that was once highly common being all but eliminated.