NHL hit by “The Mumps”

NHL hit by “The Mumps”

The “World’s fastest Game” is now facing an insidious threat from a viral illness called Mumps: the symptoms of which include painful swelling of glands in the throat and groin. The mumps is an infection of the salivary glands, which can lead to fever, muscle aches, loss of appetite, general malaise, and swollen glands that are most noticeable in the face. Atypical symptoms associated with the virus include an infection of the ears, testicles, pancreas or brain, these symptoms are rare, however. There is no treatment for the mumps, and patients need to be isolated in order to keep from spreading it to others as the virus is spread by contact, so you have to get within arms-length of someone who is infected in order to be at risk.

At least 15 NHL players have come down with the disease, which started among the Anaheim Ducks and spread to the Minnesota Wild, New Jersey Devils, Pittsburgh Penguins and New York Rangers. This outbreak is not the first this year in the US, as in February the virus emerged at Fordham University’s Rose Hill campus in the Bronx; in March, another, at Ohio State University, infected more than 100 students. “NHL players are the perfect population for a mumps outbreak,” says Pennsylvania State University infectious disease expert Dr MacGregor-Skinner, “Because of the typical locker-room behaviour such as sharing water bottles, sharing towels, banging heads on the ice, anywhere you might be able to share saliva increases that risk for diseases such as mumps,” he told News Channel. The NHL cannot change the physical nature of the game to keep players away from each other, or re-work this season’s schedule to isolate teams with outbreaks. The best that teams can do is to minimize the risk by stopping players from sharing bottles and other equipment, and quickly isolating an infected player. Considering that the virus has an incubation period of at least a couple of weeks, it means players who have contracted it may wake up on Christmas morning to the gifts of fever, muscle aches, fatigue, and the so-called chipmunk-cheeks due to swollen salivary glands.

A mumps vaccine was first offered to babies in 1970, but it soon became apparent that one shot was not enough to offer adequate protection against the virus but it wasn’t until 1996 that it became clear mumps required a second vaccine due to immunity fading over time. That means those born between 1980 and 1992 are most at risk and part of the reason current NHL players are at risk is because they fall into something of an immunity gap.

If you are lucky enough to watch a hockey game live, you would be able to see the saliva spray sometimes between players so it seems possible the NHL might decide it’s a serious enough issue, to suspend all matches for a unprecedented amount of time.

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