Mumps is an infection caused by viruses that primarily affects the parotid glands, which is one of three pairs of salivary glands, located below and in front of ears. Usually, it presents as swelling in one or both parotid glands.
Although complications of mumps are rare, it is potentially very serious which may result in hospitalization. In very rare cases, people infected with mumps develop viral meningitis, swelling in the testes (for men), swelling of the ovaries (for women), temporary hearing loss (and some with permanent hearing loss in one or both ears), swelling of the pancreas (pancreatitis) and swelling of the brain (encephalitis).
It used to be quite common until the mumps vaccine was licensed in the 1960s. Since then, the number of cases has dropped dramatically, as most children would have been vaccinated against mumps. However, outbreaks of mumps still occur and is still common in developing countries. So, getting a vaccination to prevent mumps is a must.
The mumps virus spreads easily through infected saliva from person to person. A person can contract mumps by breathing in saliva droplets of an infected person who has just sneezed or coughed and released the viruses into the air.
Besides that, sharing utensils or cups with someone who has mumps could pass the infection as well. Thus, mumps is about as contagious as the flu (influenza).
The symptoms of mumps include fever, weakness and fatigue, inflamed, painful salivary glands and pain when chewing or swallowing. The best known sign of mumps is the swollen glands on one or both sides of the face.