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Definition: mumps from Merriam-Webster's Collegiate(R) Dictionary

(1598) : an acute contagious virus disease caused by a paramyxovirus (species Mumps virus of the genus Rubulavirus) and marked by fever and by swelling esp. of the parotid gland

Summary Article: Mumps
From Encyclopedia of Global Health

Mumps is an acutely contagious disease caused by a virus that most typically affects young people under the age of 15. In children, mumps can be uncomfortable but is not generally medically dangerous, although its incidence in adults, which is also possible, may be more serious. In many countries, children receive a combination of vaccines combating mumps, measles, and rubella (MMR) that has proved very successful in reducing deaths caused by these diseases. Unfortunately, poorly reviewed research in recent years has needlessly caused concern over the safety of this vaccine. Mumps is also known as infectious parotitis (inflammation of the salivary glands) and it is spread by airborne droplets caused when infected patients sneeze or cough, because the responsible paramyxovirus is contained within the saliva. A paramyxovirus is a single-stranded RNA virus that has a substantially sized family of related viruses that cause a variety of diseases. The rapidity with which the disease spreads can give rise to epidemics, especially among children at school. Symptoms may not be visibly evident but might alternatively involve swelling of the salivary glands, which are located on either side of the neck. Other symptoms can include discomfort when chewing or swallowing, tenderness, and fever. This may last for four or five days, but is not severe. In older boys and men, orchitis may develop, which is an inflammatory condition leading to swelling in one or both testicles. In severe cases, this can lead to sterility. Female patients may experience swelling of the breasts arising from the same cause. Rarely, mumps sufferers contract encephalitis, hearing loss, or meningitis.

Although vaccines against mumps are easily available and inexpensive, there is no known treatment for a patient who has caught the virus. Having had the disease once is considered to be sufficient protection against ever contracting it again in the future. Medical practitioners advise that all children be vaccinated with the MMR vaccine. There are very minor risks that the mumps portion of the MMR vaccine can lead to aseptic meningitis or parotitis in some children, although they will then recover from this without subsequent effects. The MMR is not linked with autism according to any properly conducted research. The risks of not taking the MMR vaccine are significant both to the individual and to others who might subsequently be infected. The mumps vaccine was discovered by Dr. Maurice Hilleman, who created more than 40 vaccines in the years following World War II, including those for measles, hepatitis A and B, and chicken pox. It has been estimated that his vaccines save some 8 million lives per year.

  • Childhood Immunization; Measles; Rubella.

  • Alan Dove, “Maurice Hilleman,” Nature Medicine (v.11/4S, 2005).
  • A. M. Galazka; S. E. Robertson; A. Kraigher, “Mumps and Mumps Vaccine: A Global Review,” Bulletin of the World Health Organization (v.77/1, 1999).
  • World Health Organization, “Mumps,” (cited May 2007).
  • John Walsh
    Shinawatra University
    Copyright © 2008 by SAGE Publications, Inc.

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