A mumps outbreak is caused by a combination of two factors: the nature of the disease and lack of immunization. Mumps is very contagious and can readily spread from person to person. If an area has a large population of non-vaccinated persons, a mumps outbreak is more likely to occur. Outbreaks normally occur in children under 12 years old.
Mumps commonly causes swelling in the salivary glands, but in rare cases, it is known to affect the central nervous system, pancreas and testes as well. Those infected with mumps are advised to drink fluids and apply hot or cold packs to the swollen glands. The virus is often accompanied by fever, and an infected person will be ill for up to 10 days. A simple examination of the swollen area is usually all a doctor needs to diagnose mumps, but a blood test may be performed to rule out other diseases.
As a viral disease, mumps is highly contagious. It spreads in moist fluids, much like the flu or a cold, and a person infected with mumps can pass it to another person by sneezing or coughing on that person. The disease is most contagious during the first week of symptoms, but an infected individual will not have symptoms for about 16 days. Sometimes symptoms do not appear for almost a month. Even before a person begins to feel unwell, they are contagious and might spread the disease to others.
The mumps vaccine was introduced in the 1960s. It is the best method of preventing a mumps outbreak. Although individuals who have had the mumps are immune to a mumps, the vaccine is a less painful method of immunizing. The mumps vaccine must be administered twice to be effective. Most people receive the vaccine when they are one year old and again between the ages of four and six.
In the early 2000s, it was hypothesized that the mumps vaccine was connected to autism, and many parents refused to vaccinate their children with the mumps, measles and rubella (MMR) immunization. In the following years, there was an increase in the number of instances of a mumps outbreak. Further research found no conclusive link between the MMR vaccine and autism.