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Rangers' Tanner Glass, Derick Brassard fought mumps and boredom

New York Rangers left wing Tanner Glass looks

New York Rangers left wing Tanner Glass looks on against the Pittsburgh Penguins in the third period of an NHL game at Madison Square Garden on Monday, Dec. 8, 2014. Photo Credit: Kathleen Malone-Van Dyke

When Tanner Glass got mumps -- swelling around his throat so bad that he couldn't swallow food -- his concern immediately shifted to his family. The Rangers forward has a 15-month-old son at home, and a wife and visiting parents who hadn't previously been vaccinated.

So he locked himself in a room, watching just enough on Netflix to make him nuts, and began the five-day sojourn into isolation that has become standard in the NHL.

"It's pretty fortunate that none of the family members have got it," he said of the outbreak that has ripped across the National Hockey League. "But that's the major concern for me. When I got it, I tried to stay away . . . [but] that was the worst part, honestly. It's just so boring. What do you do after five days? I'm not a video game guy, [so] it's movies, reading, documentaries, Netflix."

Teammate Derick Brassard's symptoms were less severe -- a small bump near his jaw and a short-lived fever -- but he, too, was forced to lock himself in his apartment and become "probably one of the best 'Call of Duty' players in the world right now," he said. He missed two games before returning to the lineup in Saturday night's game at Carolina.

"I played a lot of video games and watched a lot of TV, and that was the frustrating part," he said, noting that though he'd been vaccinated as a child, he couldn't get the booster the Rangers were offering to players a few weeks ago because he was ill at the time. "I couldn't see anyone. I couldn't get out and go for walks . . . I'm just hoping none of my teammates are going to get it. We're playing some good hockey. That's the last thing that we need."

This is where we stand so far with mumps: There have been 16 confirmed cases among NHL players, with Penguins defenseman Olli Maatta being the most recent reported case. Two referees also have been infected, along with a radio intern, according to an ESPN report.

At least two Rangers -- Glass and Brassard -- tested positive and a third, Lee Stempniak, currently is in his five-day isolation, pending test results. Two members of the Rangers' Hartford affiliate, coach Ken Gernander and forward Joey Crabb, are being tested and are in isolation. Those are the first real indicators that mumps may be getting a foothold in the AHL.

"There's a whole bunch of theories out there" as to how it spread, Rangers coach Alain Vigneault said, "and there are articles in every Canadian paper on a daily basis on this. It is what it is."

The disease manifests itself in flu-like symptoms, fever, headaches and swollen or tender salivary glands, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. According to Saul Hymes of Stony Brook Children's Hospital's pediatric infectious disease division, however, a person might not show symptoms for about two weeks.

Though most children in the U.S. are vaccinated as toddlers, studies have shown that the vaccine is only 70 to 80 percent effective, Hymes said. Immunity wavers about 10 years after the vaccine, he said, and that's where boosters come in. (Though teams are offering boosters, they are elective.)

According to the players association, an eight-person joint infection control subcommittee has been sending information to teams on how to contain the virus. The CDC said that because the virus is spread via saliva and mucus, it can be especially prevalent in what it called "close-contact communities'' -- places such as schools, college campuses and, yes, sports teams.

It also reported that there were 1,089 confirmed, reported cases from the beginning of the year to Dec. 12, compared with 438 cases in 2013. There was an even larger outbreak in 2010, 2,612 cases.

Once a person shows symptoms, the CDC recommends a five-day isolation period to curb spread of the virus, which is transmitted through bodily fluids.

According to John Dellapina, vice president of communications for the NHL, the league has informed all teams about how to curb the spread of the disease. Methods being seen around the league include disinfecting surfaces and not sharing water bottles or towels. The Rangers also have instilled a no-roommate policy. First-year players usually share rooms on the road, but now each player gets his own room, rookie Kevin Hayes said.

"It's a crazy situation, what's going on," Hayes said. "You never know when you can get it, so it's hard to fight it. We have our trainers on top of us and all the players are pretty open about not wanting it. I've had a roommate the whole time since I've been here and I'm not really a germaphobe at all and I don't really look into that stuff at all . . . There's definitely a level of concern if it's going around, but we're really not too focused on it."

Theories abound. The Anaheim Ducks were one of the earliest teams to be affected. The Minnesota Wild, also one of the first teams, has had five confirmed cases. Previously infected Ducks defenseman Francois Beauchemin told Yahoo Sports that the St. Louis Blues, who had a number of players ill with an unspecified bacterial infection, were the source of his (and the league's) malaise.

Now perfectly healthy, Glass wonders about the source.

"You could be a carrier and not have symptoms and you could be in an incubation period," he said. "It's out there in the population now and it's hard to find out who I got it from and who Patient Zero is."

Does he have any theories?

"Oh, yeah," he said, grinning. "I'm not going to share it."

With Jim Baumbach

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