Mumps is a contagious viral disease caused by a paramyxovirus, and is spread when infected people sneeze, cough, or talk. If you drink from a cup used by an infected person, you could contract the disease. The virus can also survive on objects for several hours.
Because mumps can cause serious complications, especially in adults, it’s essential you know how to protect yourself from it.
The main symptom is parotitis, swollen salivary glands under the ears or jaw, which manifests itself 16 to 18 days after exposure. Symptoms that appear before that are fever, myalgia, headache, and malaise. Mumps can sometimes cause brain swelling. Note that about 20% of cases are asymptomatic.
You must have a mumps vaccine to protect yourself. Go to a doctor about 5 weeks before you travel to obtain 2 doses of the vaccine. If you never had mumps, or can’t show you were vaccinated, you should be vaccinated.
Practice the usual hygiene precautions, such as frequent hand washing, or use an alcohol-based sanitizer. Don’t share utensils with people who are sick, and avoid close contact with them. Don’t touch your mouth, nose, or eyes with unwashed hands. When you sneeze or cough, cover your mouth and nose with your sleeve, or a tissue.
Mumps can cause sterility, and a pregnant woman could lose her child. Adults are at an increased risk for meningoencephalitis, compared to children. It’s thus very important to be vaccinated, and if you have symptoms, stay away from other people.