If you're a hockey fan, you are probably well aware of the mumps outbreak going on in the NHL. I'm a football fan....so I had no clue, not until Canada's beloved Sidney Crosby came down with the mumps this week. That announcement hit my Facebook stream like a cross check from behind....
The outbreak seems to have started among the Anaheim Ducks in mid-October. The Ducks played the Minnesota Wild, the Wild then played the St. Louis Blues, the Blues played the Rangers....and so forth and so on. Apparently, the Ducks missed the alert sent from the local health unit that had been issued in September. With the announcement of Crosby falling victim, the official tally of confirmed cases in the NHL is 13.
As noted by the transmission within the NHL, mumps is a contagious infection that is caused by the mumps virus. It spreads from person to person via droplets of saliva or mucus from the mouth, nose or throat of an infected person, usually when the person coughs, sneezes or talks, but I suppose spitting would work too! The mumps virus can also be spread indirectly when someone with mumps touches items or surfaces without washing their hands and if someone else touches the same surface and rubs their mouth or nose.
The incubation period of mumps can range from 12 - 25 days so the chances are highly likely that a few more NHL players will end up with mumps for Christmas and be wishing they got a lump of coal instead! People with mumps are considered most infectious a few days before the onset of the characteristic swelling of the parotid glands to 5 days after their glands begin to swell. As a vaccine preventable disease, mumps is generally rare in North America. In 1964 there was an estimated 212,000 cases while in 2012 only 229 were reported. While people who have had mumps in the past are considered to be protected for life, there are a few unlikely individuals who are infected again.
The best way to prevent the mumps is by being vaccinated. Two doses of the vaccine provides a 88% effectiveness in prevention the disease. Other means to prevent infection include minimizing close contact with infected individuals, ensuring those infected stay at home and limit contact with others, frequent hand hygiene, covering your mouth and nose with a tissue when coughing - or sneezing or coughing into your sleeve, refrain from sharing drinks or eating utensils and regularly clean surfaces that are frequently touched with a registered disinfectant.
Environmental hygiene is particularly important as the virus can live on contaminated surfaces (e.g. door knobs, faucet handles, light switches....locker room benches) or personal items (e.g. cups, utensils or water bottles) for hours or days. These surfaces can help spread the virus to those who are not immune, especially if there is sharing of contaminated items or touching of contaminated surfaces and then touching your eyes, nose or mouth. Perhaps the NHL needs to look at their cleaning and disinfection programs within the locker room and personal hygiene measures while sitting in close proximity on the bench. An interesting thought (being a new hockey mom), since I know firsthand that covering your mouth while wearing a hockey helmet can prove to be difficult!