The Rangers said center Derick Brassard was officially diagnosed Wednesday with mumps, becoming the latest case in the NHL's outbreak of the highly contagious virus.
Brassard, who was sent home from Edmonton on Sunday after showing symptoms consistent with the mumps, tested positive through a blood test yesterday, a team spokesman said.
He's the second Ranger and 15th NHL player from five different teams to contract the virus, which is spread through infected respiratory secretion such as saliva, much like a cold or the flu. The illness manifests itself through swelling and pain of one or both jowls, along with high fever and headache. Two NHL on-ice officials also have contracted mumps.
Penguins center Sidney Crosby returned to the ice Wednesday for the first time since his mumps diagnosis on Sunday, but the Penguins also said three additional players have recently gotten ill and were being tested for mumps.
"It's a concern," NHL deputy commissioner Bill Daly said, "and obviously we are trying to provide all the tools we can to our clubs to help them in their efforts to keep the outbreak as contained as possible."
The Penguins said the three players being tested for mumps -- goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury and defensemen Olli Maatta and Robert Bortuzzo -- are in isolation.
But according to Saul Hymes of Stony Brook Children's Hospital's pediatric infectious disease division, a person who has mumps may not show symptoms for as long as two weeks after contracting the virus. Yet a person is still contagious during that time, which is why it's difficult to stop the virus' spread, especially in close settings such as a sports locker room.
Hymes said the virus could be spread from what might seem like otherwise innocuous behavior on the bench, such as taking a sip from the same water bottle and sharing a towel.
"It's conceivable that if they have symptoms while on the ice, coughing or sneezing or even just bumping into people could spread respiratory secretion enough to give it to people while playing," Hymes said.
A spokesman for the NHL Players Association said the league's eight-person joint infection control subcommittee -- made up of mostly team physicians and trainers -- "has been following the Center for Disease Control's recommendations on managing mumps outbreaks."
Last month the league instructed its teams to offer players and staff vaccinations and booster shots for mumps.
The Rangers have said players received booster shots after Tanner Glass was diagnosed with mumps on Nov. 28. The Islanders also offered the vaccine to their players and traveling staff, a spokesman said.
The Islanders have not had any players display mumps-like symptoms, but still decided to be "extremely cautious" and postpone their annual holiday hospital visits scheduled for Wednesday. Their decision came on the heels of the Penguins visiting a children's hospital in Pittsburgh last week, days before learning that some of their players had mumps.
Gord Dwyer, an NHL referee, said Wednesday the medical staff that oversees the league's on-ice officials also has instructed them to receive the vaccine and to follow the same "preventive precautions" as players have been told to, such as not sharing water bottles or towels. The CDC said there were only 229 reported mumps cases nationwide in 2012, yet this year there have been 1,089 cases in 36 states as of Dec. 12.
With Steve Zipay