As playoff slots start to solidify, the 22 teams of the WHL are hoping to quash a recent resurgence of mumps infections within their ranks. The league has posted a statement echoed by all the organizations confirming the illness and providing health resource information. With the first cases reported to the league in early February, there has been a coordinated effort to minimize the spread of the virus through locker rooms and out on the ice.
The first reported mumps cases were from the Brandon Wheat Kings as early as February 7. Within two weeks, nine more cases were linked to the Medicine Hat Tigers which prompted Alberta Health Services to send out a warning.
Since last week, the outbreak has moved into the NHL as well. The Minnesota Wild announced on that forwards Jason Pominville and Zach Parise tested positive, and four players were scratched for showing symptoms on the Vancouver Canucks roster. Several of them have since returned to the ice. This situation will likely lead to some league policy changes on vaccination records for the WHL, and will for the NHL. This is not the first time the Mumps have hit the ice; the NHL had an unprecedented outbreak in 2014 that spread to six different teams and one referee.
At this point, WHL game schedules have not been affected, but players are encouraged to be overly vigilant of hand washing hygiene. Specific teams like the Saskatoon Blades have made a public statement about avoiding handshakes with opponents–playfully adding “Nothing personal” to the other teams–and the Regina Pats have cancelled their post-game skate. Meanwhile equipment and facilities have undergone a precautionary sanitization.
There are no reports of any Portland players showing symptoms, and the chances of a fan being exposed from the stands is very low. Mumps is contracted via airborne saliva and mucus from the respiratory system. Portland Winterhawks fans, just as the fans of the other 21 teams, will have limited contact with players until the situation has been resolved. This meant the cancellation of several public appearances at the Pearl District and Southeast Les Schwab locations on February 27, as well as some Burgerville location events on March 6.
Mumps is preventable through vaccination; however, a small amount of vaccinated people remain vulnerable to infection. If you see symptoms it’s encouraged to confirm your immunization history through your doctor’s office, particularly if there has been recent contact with someone who may have symptoms. For more information, you can check out www.cdc.gov/mumps and keep alerted to the league’s updates at www.whl.ca or at any of the team social media outlets.