Jets take precautions amid mumps outbreak in the NHL
Jesse Tahirali, CTVNews.ca
Published Sunday, November 16, 2014 6:25PM EST
Last Updated Sunday, November 16, 2014 11:11PM EST
NHL players have been passing more than just pucks to each other lately. A case of the mumps is spreading through the locker rooms of at least three NHL teams.
The Anaheim Ducks announced Wednesday that winger Corey Perry and defenceman Francois Beauchemin have been diagnosed with the viral disease. Perry has missed the last five games with the team and was placed on injured reserve following the diagnosis.
Since the start of the 2014-2015 season in October, players with the St. Louis Blues and Minnesota Wild have also been diagnosed with the virus. In October, the Blues reported that several players were battling what was at the time an unknown illness.
The outbreak comes as mumps, which is an infection that causes swollen glands around the cheek, sees a resurgence.
Mumps was common until about 1980, but infectious disease specialist Dr. Neil Rau said the introduction of the MMR vaccine, which also prevents measles and rubella, all but eradicated the disease in North America and other developed countries.
However, Rau said the virus resurfaced about a decade ago.
“We started to see a bit of a resurgence, a bit of a comeback with mumps since the mid-2000s,” Rau told CTV's News Channel.
People began avoiding the vaccine after Andrew Wakefield, a now-disgraced former researcher, published falsified data linking the MMR vaccine to autism.
“And then (the mumps) started spreading a lot in university-aged kids,” Rau said. “Hockey players and university-aged kids, they’re all about 20 and 30 and that’s where we typically start to see mumps outbreaks.”
Now that some NHL players have been exposed to the virus, other teams are taking preventative measure to protect themselves.
The Winnipeg Jets, who play the Minnesota Wild Sunday, are taking a portable ozone machine on the road with them to disinfect their dressing room. They’ve also instructed players not to share water bottle or towels.
Rau thinks the NHL will probably begin to look into the vaccination records of its players. He said in 1996 it became common practice to receive two doses of the vaccine, so many players will have only been vaccinated once.
Mumps, which is spread through mucus and saliva, is less contagious than the measles and chickenpox, according to the Centres for Disease Control. Infected individuals usually experience headaches, loss of appetite and fever. Many people develop parotitis, a characteristic swelling of the salivary glands or parotid glands below the ears.
The disease generally clears itself up, though in rare cases it can cause swelling in the brain, pancreas or testicles, Rau said. Though it can cause pain and discomfort, Rau doesn’t think the NHL can do much more than keep players up-to-date on their immunizations.
“They’re not going to cancel games, for example,” he said. “The disease isn’t deadly enough to justify that.”