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A person with mumps is contagious anytime from about three days prior to the onset of the swelling of the salivary glands (called parotitis) to nine days after the onset. A person can spread the disease if he or she becomes infected with the virus, even if symptoms never develop.
Mumps symptoms can include:
- Muscle aches
- Loss of appetite
- Sore throat
- Swelling of salivary glands (the parotid salivary glands, which are located within your cheek, near your jawline, and below your ears, are most frequently affected).
(Click Pictures of Mumps to see examples of salivary gland swelling.)
In order to make a definitive diagnosis, your healthcare provider will ask a number of questions about your medical history and will perform a physical exam, looking for signs or symptoms. Diagnosing mumps can often be done just based on your symptoms and findings on the physical exam. If your healthcare provider is unsure, he or she may order tests that look for antibodies against the mumps virus or for the virus itself.
During a mumps outbreak, making a diagnosis is straightforward. When a mumps case is more isolated, the doctor will consider several other medical conditions that can have similar signs or symptoms, including:
- Influenza (the flu)
- Bacterial infection of the parotid glands
- Drug reaction, including a reaction to iodine known as "iodine mumps"
- Parotitis caused by other viruses
- Hodgkin's disease
- Systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE or lupus)
- Mononucleosis (mono)
- Cat-scratch disease
- Parotid gland tumor
- Sjogren's syndrome.