Mumps - Symptoms

Once a person is exposed to the virus, symptoms occur in fourteen to twenty-four days. Initial symptoms include chills, headache, loss of appetite, and a lack of energy. Less than twenty-four hours later, the salivary glands in the face begin to swell. The patient finds it painful to chew or swallow, especially acidic beverages like orange juice and lemonade. A fever as high as 104°F is also common.

The swelling reaches a maximum on about the second day. It usually disappears completely by the seventh day. Once a person has had mumps, he or she can never have the disease again.

The majority of cases of mumps disappear without complications. Complications are more likely to occur with adults who get the infection. In 15 percent of all cases, the mumps virus spreads to the brain. There, it causes an inflammation of brain tissue known as meningitis (pronounced meh-nen-JI-tiss; see meningitis entry). Symptoms of meningitis usually develop within four or five days after the first signs of mumps. These symptoms include a stiff neck, headache, vomiting, and a lack of energy. Meningitis is a very serious condition and must be treated very quickly.

The mumps virus can cause another disease of the brain known as encephalitis ("brain fever"; see encephalitis entry). The symptoms of mumps encephalitis include the inability to feel pain, seizures, and a high fever. Most patients recover from mumps encephalitis without complications. In about 1 percent of all cases, a person dies from mumps encephalitis. Those who survive may develop seizure disorders that can stay with a person throughout his or her life.

About a quarter of all adolescent boys who develop mumps also experience swelling of the scrotum (the sac that contains the testicles). This swelling is accompanied by severe pain, fever, nausea, and headache. These symptoms tend to disappear after five to seven days, although the testicles may remain tender for weeks.

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