An adult with mumps is contagious anytime from about 3 days prior to the onset of the swelling of the salivary glands (called parotitis) to 9 days after the onset. A person can spread mumps if he or she becomes infected with mumps virus, even if symptoms never develop.
The most common symptoms of adult mumps include:
- Swelling of the 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.)
Other mumps symptoms seen in adults can include:
These symptoms generally improve after 1 to 2 weeks.
In order to make an adult mumps diagnosis, the doctor will ask a number of questions about a person's medical history and perform a physical exam, looking for signs or symptoms of mumps. Diagnosing mumps can often be done just based on a person's symptoms and findings on the physical exam. If the doctor 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, diagnosing mumps is straightforward. When a mumps case is more isolated, the doctor will consider several other medical conditions that can have similar signs or symptoms as mumps, including:
- Influenza (the flu)
- Bacterial infection of the parotid glands
- Hodgkin's disease
- Drug reaction, including a reaction to iodine known as "iodine mumps"
- Parotitis caused by other viruses
- Systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE or lupus)
- Mononucleosis (mono)
- Parotid gland tumor
- Cat-scratch disease
- Sjogren's syndrome.