12/15/2014 11:38 EST | Updated 12/15/2014 11:59 EST

What Is Mumps, The Virus Affecting Hockey Players In The NHL?

NBC Sports

Since news broke over the weekend that Sidney Crosby does, in fact, have mumps, many people are wondering exactly the virus is, and why it's spreading among hockey players. Thus far, approximately 14 players in the NHL have been diagnosed with mumps.

Like other viruses, mumps is highly contagious and acquired through infected saliva — which can be via coughing, sneezing or even touching infected objects like doorknobs. For people in close quarters, like hockey players in a locker room, it's not uncommon for the virus to spread quickly.

The most noticeable symptom of mumps is swelling in the face, and more specifically in the salivary glands under the ears or jaw, according to the CDC. Other symptoms fever, headaches, muscle aches and tiredness.

According to, patients should be isolated from others for five days after the salivary glands show signs of swelling.

Though the symptoms usually clear up within seven to 10 days, in rare cases mumps can lead to more serious health problems for adults, including meningitis, deafness, encephalitis, orchitis (swelling of the testicles potentially leading to sterility) and oophoritis (swelling of the ovaries) and/or mastitis (swelling of the breasts), reports the CDC.

Getting mumps in general in 2014 is relatively rare, with only 92 cases across all of Canada and 584 in the United States in 2013, reports the WHO. This is thanks to the MMR (measles, mumps and rubella) vaccine most people received as children, which works effectively as a preventative measure. According to the CDC, you are nine times less likely to get mumps than unvaccinated people when exposed to the virus, and if you do get sick, you are less likely to experience a severe illness from mumps.

One small problem with the vaccine is that it is more effective with two doses, and for a small segment of the population that only received one dose, they may acquire the virus.

“There is an age group of people, and that age group is the late 20s — the age of NHL players, for instance — where some of those people may only have received one dose of mumps vaccine. They may be less protected than other people,” Dr. Mark Lysyshyn, a medical health officer with Vancouver Coastal Health, told The Province.

The New York Times reports that an infection control subcommittee of the NHL has sent recommendations to each hockey team, including the potential for booster shots that can protect those who need the extra dose, and checking players' vaccine records.