Here is one you should never see; when you hear of someone's child with "mumps," the diagnosis is almost always wrong. Since the advent of the MMR (measles - mumps - rubella) immunization, the disease has largely disappeared (although it is still around for those who haven't been vaccinated).

Mumps is a viral infection caused by (surprise!) the mumps virus. While the whole body is infected, the chief symptom of note is swelling of the large salivary glands (parotid glands) that lie at the angle of the jaw and up under the ear. The old diagnositic test was to have the patient suck a lemon (to stimulate saliva), whereupon the patient cried "OUCH" because it hurt - confirming the diagnosis. There is no specific treatment or cure except the usual for viral infections - rest, fluids, "supportive care."

Mumps was usually not a serious illness in itself, but we immunize for it because it can cause serious complications. These include encephalitis (inflammation of the brain) and sterility in males.

I told you that the diagnosis was usually in error nowadays. What is usually confused with mumps is infection of the lymph nodes in that area, usually with Staph or Strep germs. That infection responds to antibiotics (lymphadenitis). The other condition which mimics mumps is bacterial parotitis, infection of the salivary gland with a bacterium, usually Staphylococcus aureus.

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