Mumps: contagion, incubation period, symptoms

Mumps is particularly contagious two days before and four days after the first symptoms appear. However, the period of infection is often even longer.

Good to know: Anyone can become infected with mumps, even vaccinated people, although the course is generally milder. After a mumps infection, a person usually has lifelong protection against reinfection.

Symptoms of mumps

The first symptoms of mumps are usually nonspecific. These include, for example:

  • fatigue
  • loss of appetite
  • headache and muscle aches
  • Fever

A day or two after the onset of symptoms, some patients’ parotid glands swell, on one or both sides. Swelling is evident in the jaw and cheek area. Sometimes there is earache and pain when chewing. The swelling usually goes away after a week, while the fever often goes away after a few days.

Sometimes the salivary glands and nearby lymph nodes are also swollen.

mumps rash
Many childhood diseases go with a rash. These include measles and rubella. Conversely, there is usually no rash with mumps.

Complications of mumps

Teens and adults who contract mumps have more complications than children. This includes, for example, meningitis, which often presents with a stiff neck, severe headache and vomiting. Encephalitis may rarely occur.

Another possible complication is testicular inflammation: it occurs in one third of adolescent males with mumps. It can be recognized by painful swelling of one or both testicles, which in rare cases leads to infertility. In women, inflammation of the mammary glands or ovaries occurs.

In connection with a mumps infection, inflammation of the inner ear or inflammation of the auditory nerve can also occur. Long-term damage such as deafness rarely occurs later. Some infected people (usually young people) develop inflammation of the pancreas (pancreatitis) due to a mumps infection, which can lead to severe abdominal pain.

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