Mumps is a contagious viral infection, causing swelling and inflammation of one or both of the parotid glands. Mumps is transmitted by sneezing, coughing or direct contact with respiratory secretions. Mumps can affect the nervous system. Complications can include pancreatitis, oophoritis, orchitis, deafness and infertility besides neurological complications from meningitis.
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The Measles, Mumps and Rubella (MMR) vaccine offers immunity against all three of these diseases. A full course of the MMR vaccination requires two doses, preferably at least four weeks between each dose. Adults and older children who did not receive MMR as part of the childhood vaccination programme can still be vaccinated at any age. If you have only received one dose of the MMR vaccine your risk of contracting Mumps will be significantly higher.
Countries at risk
Mumps is prevalent in much of Asia, Africa, the Indian sub-continent and South America. Many developed countries have experienced outbreaks of Mumps in recent years such as the US, Australia and several European countries, including Spain and the UK.
The best way to protect yourself from Mumps when travelling is to ensure you have had two doses of the MMR vaccine preferably a month before setting off. You should also practice good hygiene and cleanliness, which involves:
- Washing your hands regularly
- Using hand sanitiser
- Only touching your face if your hands are clean
- Covering your mouth with a tissue when coughing or sneezing
- Avoiding close contact with people who are ill
Signs and Symptoms
Mumps is particularly distinctive in appearance because of the painful swelling in the sides of the face and under the ears. This usually develops a few days after the initial symptoms, which include headaches, joint pain and a high temperature, malaise, anorexia, earache, neck pain and photophobia (sensitivity to light).