There exists specific treatment for neither the Zika virus nor the mumps virus. Instead, both infections are treated symptomatically, which means that we have treatment options only for the symptoms that these infectious diseases cause.
Mumps is typically treated with rest, cold or warm compresses and pain relief medications like acetaminophen as well as administration of soft foods and fluids. Bar the occasional development of long-term sequelae, or repercussions, the effects of mumps infection clear on their own after several days.
The aches and pains of the Zika virus are also treated with fluids, bed rest, and analgesic medications like acetaminophen (Tylenol). Of note, people with the Zika virus should avoid taking NSAIDs like aspirin and ibuprofen because these medications may increase bleeding risk.
Like mumps, the symptoms of Zika virus usually go away on their own—taking several days to weeks to do so. Finally, some people who are infected with Zika virus go on to develop Guiilain-Barre syndrome, a neurological condition marked by ascending weakness which makes it difficult to move and walk.
Along with a host of other vaccinations, every baby out there should be getting vaccinated for MMR (measles, mumps and rubella). For the most part, vaccination has vitiated the threat of mumps. Alas, the biggest threat to mumps prevention is the antivaccination movement.
However, although we have a new vaccine for dengue—a disease similar to the ZIka virus—we have no vaccine for the Zika virus. Furthermore, it may be some time before we see a vaccine for the Zika virus created. The creation of a vaccine takes lots of money, lots of effort and lots of time. All these factors conflate to make the quest for a Zika virus vaccine an uphill battle.
Nevertheless, there’s reason to be sanguine because the humanistic impact of the Zika virus should appeal to international humanitarian efforts. The prospect of substantial numbers of babies born with microcephaly throughout South and Central America is petrifying.
In the meantime however, the best way to prevent exposure to the Zika virus involves insect repellent and (for Westerners) travel avoidance by expectant mothers to countries where mosquitoes spreading the Zika virus are endemic. (Unfortunately, in Brazil the cost of a small bottle of insect repellent is $8, making the price exorbitant to the average citizen who makes about $160 a month. Ostensibly, the Brazilian government has promised to provide free repellent to low-income populations. The Brazilian government has also deployed 200,000 military personnel in a bid to eradicate the Aedes mosquito.)
On a final note, the Zika virus shares similarities with viruses other than mumps. For instance, both the Zika virus and CMV both cause birth defects in babies and mild clinical symptoms in adults. Moreover, malaria is a mosquito-borne virus that causes poor pregnancy outcomes. However, I went with mumps because there’s a vaccination for mumps, and looking forward, it would be nice if we had a vaccination for Zika virus.
They Result in Similar Clinical Symptoms
Both infection with the Zika virus and the mumps virus is asymptomatic in many people who are infected. Specifically, the Zika virus causes symptoms in only 1 of 5 people infected. The mumps virus results in clinically evident symptoms in about half of the people that it infects.
Furthermore, although mumps virus can get pretty nasty and hit the testicles among other sensitive organs, in most people, both of these viruses typically cause milder prodromes, or self-limited clinical symptoms.
Here are some typical symptoms of mumps:
swelling of the parotid glands (parotitis) and salivary glands
Here are some typical symptoms caused by the Zika virus:
Of note, both mumps and Zika lack respiratory symptoms.