An outbreak of mumps coursing through the National Hockey League has now affected multiple players on multiple teams this season. Mumps is a virus that is spread through droplets of saliva and mucus by an infected person’s cough, sneeze, or spit. Common symptoms are mostly non-specific — fever, fatigue, decreased appetite, muscle aches — but the hallmark of the infection is parotitis: swelling of the salivary glands under the ears and jaw.
Yup. That’s Sidney Crosby of the Penguins. Yesterday it was confirmed that he has mumps; the picture above tells the story. What confounded his diagnosis was the fact that Crosby had received two boosters of the MMR vaccine relatively recently: earlier this year before the Sochi Winter Olympics and last month, when the NHL realized it had an epidemic on its hands. Additionally, Crosby suffered an injury to the right jaw area last month. It took several blood tests over the last two weeks before doctors could conclude that Crosby has mumps.
The best way to prevent mumps is with two MMR vaccines:
The MMR (measles, mumps, and rubella) vaccine is the best way to prevent mumps. The MMR vaccine should be routinely given when children are 12-15 months old, and a second dose should be given when they are 4-6 years old. Two doses of the vaccine are more effective against mumps than one dose and prevent most, but not all, cases of mumps and mumps complications.
Pediatrician John Mersch lists the complications of mumps, which are not insignificant and were a common nightmare among parents whose children contracted mumps before the mumps vaccine became available in the United States in 1950:
1. Meningitis: More than half of patients with mumps will have meningitis, which may occur during any period of the disease. Generally patients make a full recovery without permanent side effects.
2. Encephalitis: Until the 1960s, mumps was the primary cause of confirmed viral encephalitis in the United States. Since the successful introduction of a vaccination program, the incidence of mumps encephalitis has fallen to 0.5%. Fortunately, most patients recover completely without permanent side effects.
3. Deafness: Preceding the mumps vaccination program, permanent nerve damage resulting in deafness was not unusual. While occasionally bilateral, more commonly only one ear was affected.
4. Orchitis: This complication was the most common side effect to postpubertal males who contracted mumps. Severe pain (often requiring hospitalization for pain management) was one-sided in most cases. Some affected testes atrophied (decreased in size), and some demonstrated impaired fertility. The “common knowledge” of sterility was actually rare. Previous concerns regarding mumps orchitis and later testicular cancer have not been proven. (Ovarian involvement occurred in some postpubertal girls.)
Kirstie Chiappelli asks, “why hockey players?”:
“You see the hits that they have, and sometimes the spraying of saliva,” Dr. Judith Aberg, chief of the infectious diseases division at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai Hospital, said. “I think they are high risk. I am surprised we haven’t actually seen this before.”
Katie Strang has the list of players affected so far:
Both Corey Perry and Francois Beauchemin of the Anaheim Ducks contracted mumps. The St. Louis Blues reportedly had incidences. Tanner Glass of the New York Rangers had a confirmed case, but the Minnesota Wild have been hit most significantly, with Ryan Suter, Keith Ballard, Marco Scandella, Jonas Brodin and Christian Folin all felled by the disease. And on Wednesday, the Bergen Record reported that both Travis Zajac and Adam Larsson of the New Jersey Devils have been diagnosed with the mumps.
Add “Sid the Kid” to that list.