Mumps, also known as epidemic parotitis, are caused by the mumps virus. Mumps are a contagious disease that is spread from person to person through contact with respiratory secretions such as saliva from an infected person. When an infected person coughs or sneezes, the droplets aerosolize and can enter the eyes, nose, or mouth of another person. Mumps can also be spread by sharing food and drinks. The virus can also survive on surfaces and then be spread after contact in a similar manner. A person infected with mumps is contagious from approximately 6 days before the onset of symptoms until about 9 days after symptoms start. The incubation period (time until symptoms begin) can be from 14–25 days but is more typically 16–18 days.
Mumps are characterized by Painful swelling of the salivary glands (classically the parotid gland). Diagnosis is generally obtained from that feature alone. Parotid inflammation (or parotitis) occurs in 60–70% of infections and 95% of patients with symptoms. Parotitis causes swelling and local pain, particularly when chewing. It can occur on one side (unilateral), but is more common on both sides (bilateral) in almost 90% of cases.
The Mumps virus can also cause Fever, Headache and Painful testicular swelling (orchitis) and rash. The symptoms are generally not severe in children. In teenage males and men, orchitis complications such as infertility or subfertility are more common, although still rare in absolute terms. The disease is generally self-limiting, running its course before receding with no specific treatment apart from controlling the symptoms and pain.
Other symptoms of mumps can include dry mouth, sore face and/or ears and occasionally in more serious cases, loss of voice. In addition, up to 20% of persons infected with the mumps virus do not show symptoms so it is possible to be infected and spread the virus without knowing it.