Article Written By Dr. William Kleber

The media continues to sensationalize potential contagious outbreaks and the most recent is mumps. Fear can be removed through understanding. Mumps is a disease that is caused by a virus and spread through saliva. It is passed through coughing, sneezing and even laughing.

Symptoms start with fever, headache and loss of appetite. Fever can reach 103. The hallmark of mumps is swelling of the parotid gland, which gives the “chipmunk like” appearance due to swelling of the cheeks below the ear and near the jaw. Both sides are often affected with one side swelling before the other. The pain gets worse when the patient swallows, talks, chews, or drinks acidic juices (like orange juice). In some cases, signs and symptoms of mumps are so mild that no one suspects a mumps infection. Doctors believe that about one in three people who have a mumps infection don’t exhibit symptoms.

The average incubation period is 16-18 days, recovery averages 10- 12 days and it generally takes about 1 week for the swelling to disappear. People who have the mumps are contagious from 2 days before the symptoms to 6 days after symptoms end. Complications in males can include swelling of one or both testicles and this is called orchitis. Even with involvement of both testicles, sterility is rare. Aspirin should never be given to children during viral infection due to Reyes syndrome, which can lead to liver failure and death. Antibiotics are of no use since it is not a bacterial infection.

Late winter and early spring are customary times for outbreak. The mumps vaccine was first introduced in 1967 and is believed to provide immunity from 25 years to life. It is generally understood however that a vaccination provides only passive temporary immunity. Conversely, coming in contact with and developing a naturally occurring episode of mumps in childhood will provide active permanent immunity. Blood tests can be done to check whether or not you have immunity to mumps. Adults who were vaccinated in the late 1960’s or early 1970’s may no longer have immunity.

Natural antiviral agents are available and have been proven to be very effective in stopping the multiplication of the virus and possibly preventing infection. Due to the type of virus involved in the mumps, there are studies show that monolaurin (glycerol monolaurate) can be a very effective agent against the mumps. If you think that you or your child has mumps, call your doctor, who can confirm the diagnosis and work with you to monitor you or your child’s progress and watch for any complications. The doctor can also notify the health authorities who keep track of childhood immunization programs and mumps outbreaks.

Understanding of almost any disease and knowing what your options are will take the fear out of a disease. Once again, people who have healthy and strong immune systems can better fight off disease and have fewer complications than people with weak or compromised immune systems.

The motto of this story is to focus on your health and be proactive. By staying healthy and taking care of yourself your body’s immune system will be better prepared to handle any infection, even the mumps. Your health is your most valuable asset.