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Sidney Crosby's mumps extend NHL outbreak that predates Ducks' cases

Pittsburgh Penguins star Sidney Crosby is latest NHL player to contract the mumps

Ducks defenseman Francois Beauchemin isn’t a doctor, but when he saw the photos of returning NHL MVP Sidney Crosby's facial swelling on social media two nights ago, his diagnosis was immediate.

“Obviously, it looks like mumps symptoms,” Beauchemin told the Los Angeles Times. “That’s exactly how the mumps started for me and for the rest of the guys, that same swollen jaw and glands.”

On Sunday, the Pittsburgh Penguins made it official, announcing their league superstar has joined a list of NHL players – including four Ducks – who have caught the virus.

Beauchemin missed five games due to his mumps battle, admitting to close friends that the discomfort was worse than any sickness he’d ever been through.

Ducks former NHL MVP Corey Perry was the first Duck to contract the viral disease mostly known as a childhood affliction.

Perry first left the team Nov. 5 with what was first called flu symptoms. Like Crosby, his case took a few days to identify. By Nov. 12, Perry’s case was called the mumps.

Perry and Beauchemin underwent blood tests, but in each case it was a “viral culture” taken inside the mouth with a swab that identified the condition, Ducks team doctor Craig Milhouse said at the time.

While the NHL has since suggested that players get a mumps vaccination, the team-by-team handling of players showing mumps symptoms has been inexact.

For instance, Minnesota defenseman Keith Ballard underwent medical tests for a sickness that predated Perry’s and sidelined Ballard between his Oct. 17 game at the Ducks and Nov. 8, and some mumps tests were positive according to a Nov. 4 report in the Minneapolis Star-Tribune.

Before that, several St. Louis Blues players, including center Jori Lehtera, who was sick before playing in Anaheim on Oct. 19, were sidelined through the latter part of the month with an illness that bore resemblance to the mumps.

The Blues “never had confirmed mumps,” a Blues spokesman wrote The Times in an email Sunday. In an Oct. 30 Ducks’ game at St. Louis, Blues Coach Ken Hitchcock said center Joakim Lindstrom was sidelined with a sickness Hitchcock generally reduced to being “bacterial.”

Asked what the illness was identified as, the team spokesman said it “really wasn’t. At the time, we were one of the first along with Minnesota, so [it] really wasn’t labeled as mumps … back then.”

Crosby has missed the Penguins’ last two games and is expected to be held out of the team’s Monday game against Tampa Bay. The Penguins said Crosby, the team’s points leader with nine goals and 26 assists, should be through the infectious stage Monday, but he practiced with the team Friday, when he was seen with the swelling on the right side of his face.

“The mumps last about a week, the contagious period is about five to seven days,” Milhouse said last month in addressing Perry’s case.

“It’s not more serious [in adults], seems like it hits them a little harder. The body fights it off, it runs its course and it’s over with.”

As for the Ducks, defenseman Clayton Stoner and current minor-leaguer Emerson Etem also suffered through the mumps. Stoner said the fatigue late in his recovery left him feeling like he was “breathing through a straw” at his first comeback practice.

Etem’s case emerged two weeks ago, but the Ducks are still in an incubation period.

It can still be contracted elsewhere, and the Penguins now join the New York Rangers and New Jersey Devils as recent teams who’ve had a player contract the mumps.

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