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Mumps is a contagious disease caused by a virus (paramyxovirus). It is characterized by a generalized feeling of malaise, and often associated with a painful enlargement of the salivary glands. Although it may occur at any age, mumps is usually seen in children 5 to 15 years of age. A mumps vaccine is part of the basic immunization schedule of preschoolers. In Canada, the vaccine is only available as a combined vaccine against measles, mumps and rubella. Adequate immunization is probably the best available protection against this illness.


The illness usually appears 14 to 24 days following contact with the virus.


In 30 to 40 percent of cases, the salivary glands are not enlarged and the illness resembles a benign viral infection. In the other cases, the onset of the illness is accompanied by headaches, shivering, a loss of appetite, generalized malaise, and mild to moderate fever. These symptoms appear 12 to 24 hours before glandular enlargement becomes apparent. The enlarged salivary glands are very painful and make it difficult to chew and swallow. The fever may be moderate to severe. The illness typically lasts from 4 to 10 days.

About 20 percent of post-pubescent boys who contract the illness have testicular inflammation. The inflammation usually touches only one testis and is very painful. (It was once believed that mumps was a common cause for sterility in men but it is now clear that mumps only very rarely leads to sterility.)


The illness is spread by direct contact with infected saliva droplets or materials contaminated by infected saliva. The patient becomes contagious 2 days before symptoms appear and remains contagious for 7 to 10 days.

One attack confers permanent immunity, so you can't catch mumps more than once.

Remember: Washing your hands frequently significantly reduces the risk of transmitting most contagious diseases.

For more information :

Canadian Paediatric Society

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