By Nick Muhl
Yes, you did in fact read that last headline correctly. The National Hockey League is currently experiencing a moderate outbreak of the mumps. While NFL headlines argue whether Johnny Manziel should or shouldn’t be a starting quarterback and the NBA is going wild watching the Golden State Warriors fast start to the season, the NHL is investigating one of the strangest stories to hit a major sports league in 2014.
Mumps is “an acute, inflammatory, contagious disease caused by a paramyxovirus”. Symptoms include fever, headaches, muscle pains, fatigue and swollen glands but can be prevented by a vaccine and mostly only affects children.
Currently multiple teams and players have contracted the disease including players on the Anaheim Ducks, St. Louis Blues, New York Rangers, and several superstars including the Duck’s Cory Perry, the Rangers Tanner Glass, Minnesota Wild forward Ryan Suter, and now most recently the Pittsburgh Penguins Sidney Crosby.
Crosby, like many other NHL players, received a mumps vaccine booster shot prior to traveling to Russia for the Winter Olympic games in Sochi. In an interview with ESPN, Dr. Greg Wallace, a lead epidemiologist at the Center for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta, said that “considering the lengthy incubation period of the mumps, it’s virtually impossible to predict how long this outbreak will affect the league.”
The Center for Disease Control and Prevention, also known as the CDC, also reports several hundred to a couple thousand cases of the mumps every year. The high number of cases in a little over a month in the NHL is alarming. However, with close contact locker rooms and multiple games in different cities each week – it is understandable why the disease has spread somewhat quickly and yet the origin cannot be traced.
According to USA Today, the NHL released information to each team regarding the mumps outbreak and how to prevent the spread of the disease. It remains to be seen if the NHL will provide additional support to prevent the spread of the disease, because of its nature there is no telling when the outbreak may end for the league.
While many fans, players, and media want the NHL to track down “patient zero”, it may be more important for the NHL to find a way to prevent the further spread of this disease before the NHL becomes subject to more serious headlines.