The Slatest

Mumps Outbreak Strikes NHL

Pittsburgh Penguins star and Canadian hero Sidney Crosby has been diagnosed with mumps, making him one of 13 NHL players to come down with the disease this season (two referees have also caught the virus). From an informative Deadspin piece by Matt McCarthy:

The story of this outbreak appears to have begun in early November, when Anaheim Ducks defenseman Francois Beauchemin noticed a swelling in his jaw after a game against the Arizona Coyotes on November 7th. A few hours later, he developed a fever, chills, muscle aches, and lost his appetite. Four days later, he was ten pounds lighter. By then, the virus was spreading around the Ducks locker room. Three of his teammates would catch the disease before it leapt to other teams: the New Jersey Devils, New York Rangers, and the Minnesota Wild, where five players came down with mumps, including all-star defenseman Ryan Suter.

Though the disease has been largely eradicated in the United States and Canada, the countries where most NHL players hail from, McCarthy writes that mumps cases even in vaccinated communities are not unheard of because the vaccine seems to lose strength over time. The NHL, meanwhile, has proven a conducive environment for the transfer of the virus, which is spread through droplets of saliva and mucus. The good news is that “almost all” mumps patients recover fully after “a few weeks,” per the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Beauchemin and Suter have both returned to play, for example, although Beauchemin has since broken a finger*—playing hockey, even aside from the whole mumps thing, is a hazardous occupation.

*Correction, Dec. 15, 2014: This post originally misstated that Beauchemin broke his hand. He broke his finger.