(Reuters) - The mumps outbreak that has spread through the National Hockey League over the past month and recently claimed the game's best player has likely reached its peak, experts said on Tuesday.
Pittsburgh Penguins captain Sidney Crosby sat out his team's Monday game after becoming the 13th NHL player since early November to come down with the highly contagious disease that is usually found in children.
"The main thing now is that everybody is aware of it and from what I understand most teams have given their players booster shots," Dr. Judith Aberg, chief of the infectious diseases division at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai Hospital in New York, told Reuters.
"The vaccines take two-to-four weeks to have their maximum effect so they're just starting to kick in. ... It (the outbreak) should be starting to run its course."
Mumps is an infection of the salivary glands and can lead to facial swelling, fatigue, loss of appetite and muscle aches. It is spread through saliva or mucus, usually when a person coughs, sneezes or talks, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Dr. Debra Spicehandler, co-chief of Infectious Disease at Northern Westchester Hospital in Mount Kisco, New York, agreed that the outbreak had likely peaked.
But according to Spicehandler, it will take at least a couple of weeks before it is known whether the NHL is mumps free because the incubation period of the virus can be that long.
"I think we'll see a few more cases come up," said Spicehandler.
Three Anaheim Ducks players had the first confirmed cases of mumps in the NHL and the virus has since spread to at least four other teams.
Penguins forward Beau Bennett has a suspected case of the mumps and has been quarantined and tested. The results are expected later on Tuesday.
Aberg is surprised that mumps is not more prevalent in the NHL and other sports where athletes are in close face-to-face proximity.
"I've gone to hockey games and they hit hard and you can see a spray of saliva. In that context, 15 cases is not so bad."
(Reporting by Andrew Both in Cary, North Carolina; Editing by Frank Pingue)