Ask a Maui Doctor: What do I Need to Know About Mumps?
Doctors at Minit Medical answer some of the questions submitted by readers.
Questions submitted will be considered for inclusion in the “Ask a Maui Doctor” column.
Q: With the current mumps outbreak happening on O‘ahu, what do I need to know about mumps and how can I prevent getting it?
A: Mumps is a viral disease also known as epidemic parotitis. Symptoms include muscle pain, fever, headache, and tiredness. This is typically followed by painful swelling of one or both parotid salivary glands. The swelling usually lasts seven days and it’s typically more severe in adults than in children.
Mumps is highly contagious and can spread quickly, it can be spread through contact with respiratory secretions such as saliva from an infected person. An infected person is contagious for about eight days and onset occurs about 17 days after exposure.
Mumps can spread through sneezes, coughs, or sharing utensils and cups. A person is typically immune for life once an infection has run its course. There are the occasional reinfections but it tends to be mild. Mumps can lead to viral meningitis, pancreatitis, deafness, and male infertility among other things.
The treatment of mumps is only supportive in nature but still important to diagnose to avoid spreading to others. Intermittent ice and heat to the affected area and acetaminophen and ibuprofen can help with pain. Extra fluids can also be helpful.
Aspirin is not used to treat children due to the risk of Reve’s Syndrome.
Mumps can be prevented by two doses of mumps vaccine. The efficacy of the vaccine is around 80% and is usually given to children at the ages of 12-15 months and at 4-6 years-old as part of the MMR immunization that also protects against measles and rubella.
Widespread vaccination has resulted in more than 90% reduction in rates of the disease. Although controversial, there is no concrete evidence to support the claim that the disease is beneficial or that the MMR vaccine is harmful. Since the dangers of the disease are quite relevant, it can spread rapidly in a population and the dangers of the vaccine are low, most doctors recommend vaccination.
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