As NHL faces off against mumps, Flyers fend off infection


    Professional hockey players tough it out through bloody noses and broken teeth, but at least a dozen have been sidelined this season with a rare outbreak of the mumps.


    While no Flyers are testing positive, the Philadelphia organization is taking extra precautions, including offering vaccines to players and thoroughly cleaning its facilities.

    The outbreak appears to have started with the Anaheim Ducks, before spreading to the Minnesota Wild, New Jersey Devils and N.Y. Rangers.

    This weekend, Pittsburgh Penguin star and two-time league MVP Sidney Crosby tested positive.

    Mumps, which is spread through saliva, can have an incubation period of up to 25 days. It causes flulike symptoms and swollen salivary glands.

    “It is a very uncomfortable disease as an adult. You are pretty sick,” said Dr. Gary Emmett, head of inpatient pediatrics at Jefferson University Hospital in Philadelphia.

    Before a vaccine was developed in the 1967, there were about 186,000 cases each year, according to the CDC. Last year, 438 infections were reported nationally.

    Children usually get the first vaccination at age 1, and then a second dose around age 5, Emmett said. The protection, however, does fade over time.

    “About 4 percent of the people still have the ability to catch mumps,” he said. “And as time goes on, this weakens, so by the time you are 60 years old, something like 10 and 15 percent of of people can get the mumps.”

    In 2006, an outbreak sickened more than 6,500 college students in the Midwest.

    Professional sports teams do have experience battling pathogens.

    A norovirus knocked out 21 NBA players in 2010, and MRSA infections plagued Tampa Bay’s  Buccaneers last year.

    The so-far healthy Flyers skate Tuesday against the Lightning.

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