The condition primarily affects the parotid glands. Parotid glands — also called salivary glands — are the organs responsible for producing saliva. There are three sets of salivary glands on each side of your face, located behind and below your ears. The hallmark symptom of mumps is swelling of the salivary glands.
Mumps is a highly contagious infection spread by a paramyxovirus.
The virus can travel in the air through coughs and sneezes, it may be on surfaces people touch, such as door handles or it can be picked-up from cups, cutlery, bowls or plates.
The most common symptom of mumps is swollen salivary glands (parotid) glands in the neck, sometimes referred to as a 'hamster face' appearance. The swelling can be on one or both sides of the neck.
Mumps can be prevented in 95% of cases by having the routine MMR vaccination in childhood or later in life.
Cases of mumps have been rising. There were 4,035 confirmed cases of mumps in England and Wales in 2013, compared to 2,564 in 2012.
Below are pictures of swollen neck glands from mumps in a child and in an adult.
Mumps is most contagious usually before symptoms are noticed.
Mumps has an incubation period of 7-18 days, but on average is around 10 days after exposure.
As well as the tell-tale neck swelling, symptoms may include pain and discomfort from the swelling, fever, headache, feeling sick, dry mouth, joint aches and a general malaise.
Ear pain may be felt, especially when chewing. A sour taste in the mouth may be experienced and swallowing may be difficult.
Mumps can result in complications like meningitis and painful swelling of thetesticles ( orchitis) or ovaries (oophoritis).
In children and adults with mumps and no complications, most get better and have no further side effects.
However, in rare cases neurological damage, hearing loss, pancreatitis and even death can occur.
Mumps in pregnancy can be dangerous, with an increased risk of miscarriage in the first 12-16 weeks.
Diagnosis of mumps
A doctor will diagnose mumps from the symptoms a patient has, especially theswollen glands.
Blood, urine or cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) tests may be taken to confirm the diagnosis.