Mumpy road: Outbreak of mumps in NHL raises serious concern

01/09/15 by Matthew S. Vandriak

So the NHL has a mumps epidemic? Wait, what? Is it just me that thought that getting the mumps wasn't possible anymore? So how do over 20 players on 6 different teams end up with the mumps? Good question.
After the CDC started recommending the vaccine for MMR (Measles, Mumps, Rubella) back in the early 1970's, the number of mumps cases in the United States 150,000-200,000 reported cases before the vaccination to a couple hundred reported cases the following year. So how did the mumps suddenly make a comeback? And how did it end up spreading through the NHL?
The first thing about the mumps is the vaccination end. Originally the vaccination was only given once, which was believed to be effective. But in the early 1990's it was determined that a second dose should be given. So any NHL players born before 1991 were only originally given one dose. With only the one dose, the effectiveness of the vaccine can wear off over time. The other factor is the vaccine is only effective 85% of the time because not every persons body takes to it.

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Mumps is spread through mucus and saliva, which is how it seems to have spread through the NHL. So players sharing water bottles, towels, or talking on the bench would have easily spread it amongst their team. But how did it spread from team to team? Well with players making physical contact and being in close proximity of each other on the ice, that's how it got around.
So how does the NHL stop this? Most teams in the league have offered the booster shots to update the vaccine. But with the symptoms not always showing up immediately, we may not have seen the last of it. Especially because those affiliated with the teams, not just the players, could spread it without knowing they have it, or keep it going around if they're not given the booster shots as well.
It seems for now that the mumps epidemic in the NHL is under control. Most teams have been quarantining players who have shown any potential symptoms. But is this the last we've seen of it? And could this be an epidemic in other sports, like football or basketball, where players share towels and water bottles and have constant physical contact?
In this day and age of technology and modern medicine, who would've ever thought the mumps would make a comeback IN a professional sports league? Perhaps instead of signing bonuses, players will ask for mumps boosters as part of their next free agent contracts now?

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