Mumps Virus – Infection, Transmission & Diseases


The mumps virus ( Paramyxovirus parotitis ) is spread worldwide in only one basic form (serotype) and is only found in humans. It is the causative agent of mumps (also called Ziegenpeter, Bauernwetzel or Tölpel).

What is the mumps virus?

The mumps virus was first multiplied and structured in 1945 in incubated chicken eggs. The mumps virus is surrounded by a lipid-containing envelope. It is a single-stranded RNA virus with a spiral capsule. This unusual structure makes the virus particularly sensitive to mild soaps and desiccation.

So far some genetically slightly different subtypes of the mumps virus have been found, but this has no significance for the disease and serological reaction. Several natural and cultured strains of the mumps virus are used in weakened forms as live vaccines .

The mumps infection breaks out almost exclusively in childhood and usually leads to lifelong immunity to the disease. However, a one-time vaccination does not have to protect against mumps forever.

Occurrence, Distribution & Properties

According to a current nomenclature, the mumps viruses are classified according to the genotypes A to N. The main distribution area of ​​the types A, C, D, G and H is the western hemisphere, that of the other types the Asian and Pacific region. In Germany, mumps was recently mainly caused by the genotype G, which occurs more frequently worldwide. However, the disease is extremely rarely fatal because the virus has adapted very firmly to humans as its so-called reservoir host.

The viral infection mumps is characterized by a painful swelling of the salivary glands on the ear . Due to a build-up of fluid on the sides of the earlobes, the ears appear to stand out and the cheeks on the face appear puffed out.

Children between the ages of two and 15 are most commonly affected by the disease. However, since the nationwide vaccination against mumps, the number of diseases in Germany has fallen sharply. Infections can occur throughout the year, but are usually concentrated in winter and spring. One disease per 125,000 inhabitants was determined.

Mumps is transmitted to children’s toys by droplet infection , direct mucosal contact or occasionally also saliva . The virus can also be found in urine and breast milk .

Diseases & Ailments

Mumps viruses usually have an incubation period of 16 to 18 days. In some cases, it can extend to 25 days. There is a risk of infection about seven days before and nine days after the typical swelling of the salivary glands becomes visible. About a third of all mumps infections show few or no symptoms. In children under the age of five, milder cases of mumps are often mistaken for a common cold .

The disease is usually, but not always, associated with fever . Inflammation of the parotid gland in mumps often begins on one side and may then spread to both sides. Children report the characteristic pains when chewing , in the ears, and when turning the head.

The inflammation of the parotid gland may spread to other salivary glands. In rare cases, the pancreas can also be affected. The consequences of this are vomiting and very fatty diarrhea . On its own, however, mumps is rarely associated with major complications, especially not in childhood. As you age, symptoms can be more severe. The disease usually subsides on its own after seven to ten days and then soon disappears.

Far-reaching consequences can occur when mumps viruses migrate and sometimes infect organs and organ systems that are far away. In quite a few cases, mumps also worsens to meningitis . This is almost always observed in adulthood. Infection can extend further to the vestibular nerve This progression threatens sensorineural hearing loss or even deafness .

Furthermore, there may be inflammation of the testicles , here too mostly in adulthood. This very painful condition can last three to four days and can lead to noticeable swelling of the testicles . In an emergency, bilateral occurrence leads to infertility .

When the mumps virus spreads, girls and women often suffer from ovarian inflammation , which, however, is often no longer noticeable after a week. Very rarely, the mumps virus leads to complications such as encephalitis , inflammation of the thyroid gland , iris , heart muscle and kidneys .

The mumps virus cannot be treated with a special antiviral treatment. Therapy focuses on pain-relieving and fever-reducing measures. Depending on the patient’s condition, the use of heat or cold compresses is good. Light painkillers also help against the swollen areas of the neck .

Because of the difficulty in chewing, only porridge-like meals should be taken for a few days. Acidic foods and drinks (e.g. fruit juices) may increase the pain and are therefore better avoided temporarily.

The largely very effective vaccination against the mumps virus, since it is a specific live vaccine, in some cases leads to symptoms (after all, the body is specifically infected with the virus), but in a light and quickly transient form. The area around the injection site may become slightly red, swollen and a little painful.


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Hello! I am Lisa Newlon, and I am a medical writer and researcher with over 10 years of experience in the healthcare industry. I have a Master’s degree in Medicine, and my deep understanding of medical terminology, practices, and procedures has made me a trusted source of information in the medical world.