Today star Minnesota Wild defenseman Ryan Suter is set to return to action after missing two games due to a mumps infection. Suter is the fifth (!) Wild defenseman to get catch mumps this season.
What the heck are mumps? We reached out to Minnesota Department of Health epidemiologist Emily Banerjee to find out more.
"Actually unlike measles and some other diseases that have been pretty much eliminated, mumps is something that's still around. We do see a handful of cases each year, and we also think that it's under-reported because symptoms are often vague and up to 20 percent of infected people don't exhibit any symptoms at all," she said.
According to Minnesota Department of Health statistics, only 63 cases have been reported in Minnesota since 2006, when there was an outbreak of 180 cases.
The United States requires every child attending school to get an MMR (measles, mumps, and rubella) vaccination, but Banerjee said the vaccination is only 80 to 90 percent effective, and it loses its effectiveness over time. Also, only three out of ten Canadian provinces make vaccinations mandatory for schoolchildren. So we're going to go ahead and pin this on Canada.
Banerjee said mumps spreads through close contact of fluids found in the mouth and nose of an individual, so something like say, sharing a water bottle or towel with an infected person could easily spread the virus.
Symptoms include fatigue, headache, sore throat, and general malaise, but mumps's trademark is swelling of the salivary glands.
"People get these big swollen cheeks and it looks kind of awful," said Banerjee.
Suter told the Star Tribune's Michael Russo it feels kind of awful too:
"I'm glad it's out of my system," he said. "There's a few days there where you really can't do anything. It's a miserable virus and I'm glad it's out of me. It was miserable."
Although the Wild were hit the hardest by the mumps outbreak with five players infected, three players for the Anaheim Ducks and a player for the New York Rangers have also caught mumps this year.