NEW HYDE PARK, NY -- Mumps is making a comeback in the NHL, icing a dozen or so players from four teams, including New York Rangers forward Tanner Glass. The close-contact sport makes it a hotbed for the once common childhood disease to spread, says a New York infectious disease specialist.
“Team sports activities are a good place to spread a respiratory infection like mumps, which is caused by a respiratory virus,” said Lorry Rubin, MD, chief of Pediatric Infectious Disease for Cohen Children’s Medical Center.
The NHL outbreak began in mid-October, when two Minnesota Wild players were diagnosed with mumps.
“Mumps can be spread from person to person by droplets in coughing and talking, so it can certainly spread readily in the context of sports activities, where people are put into close proximity to each other, perhaps they share a water bottles, they’re touching the same surfaces in the locker room and sports equipment, ,” said Dr. Rubin. “With that close contact, that’s a good way to spread not just mumps, but other respiratory viruses like influenza.”
The MMR (measles, mumps, and rubella) vaccine is the best way to try and prevent mumps, the doctor said, but it doesn’t guarantee 100 percent immunity. The vaccine is typically given when children are 12-15 months old, with a second dose administered before kindergarten.
“In a typical case of mumps, a patient will have a fever and upper respiratory symptoms like a cough or sore throat and runny nose,” said Dr. Rubin. “They may develop swelling by the ears or by the jaw either on one side or both sides.”
While most patients get better in a few days, complications, such as meningitis, can occur in a small subset of patients, he said.