The NHL has expressed concerns about the Vancouver Canucks' COVID-19 outbreak after more than half the team was struck down by a suspected new variant from Brazil.
Seventeen of the 22 players on the Canucks' active roster are now on the COVID-19 protocol list after Adam Gaudette first returned a positive test last week.
Multiple reports have said the P. 1 variant first identified in Brazil is suspected to be involved in the Canucks' outbreak, but the Canucks and NHL have not commented publicly on results of tests since Vancouver confirmed Gaudette had tested positive last week.
The Vancouver region recently became a hotspot for the P. 1 variant.
A number of Canucks players are reportedly in "rough shape", while one player told ESPN that he had heard of teammates receiving IV treatments for severe dehydration.
“Fatigue, dehydration - the symptoms are intense,” an agent of one Canucks player told the site.
“It’s knocked a lot of guys out. Some can’t even get out of bed.”
Harvard epidemiologist Dr Eric Liang Feigl-Ding said the Canucks cases are cause for major concern.
“More than 50 per cent of its team sickened, many decimated ‘very ill’,” he tweeted.
“Despite strict workplace protocols. Despite big PPE budget. Despite daily testing. The P. 1 variant is just that badass.”
Vancouver Canucks games postponed
However a Canadian infectious disease specialist said more information is needed on the Canucks before deeper analysis is possible.
"I think it's a bit early to speculate about what's happening with the Canucks," Dr. Ilan Schwartz, an infectious disease expert with the University of Alberta, told the Canadian Press.
"I mean I suspect that the outbreak there is likely going to turn out to be related to P1 but we don't know yet whether anyone's going to have severe infections.
"Certainly any of the variants, including what we call the wild type or the original variant, are able to cause symptomatic disease in young people, it's just the degree of symptomatology that is variable.
"And so it's difficult to draw conclusions just from one small group, but certainly, this should put Canadians on notice."
Schwartz said it's not surprising to see an outbreak on a team, even though there is regular testing.
"I think it was just a matter of time and it's sort of similar to what we saw unfold with the White House and the outbreaks that occurred there," he said.
"Basically we know that testing is not intervention in and of itself.
"It's able, perhaps to identify people who are infected earlier than if we were just waiting for the development of symptoms alone, but if it's not also implemented with other safeguards and restrictions, it's basically like relying on a pregnancy test to prevent an unwanted pregnancy.
"So I think it's probably expecting too much for the testing alone to be able to prevent the infection."
The Canucks have had four games officially postponed because of the virus, and appears it will be sidelined longer.
The Canucks' next scheduled game is Thursday in Calgary against the Flames, but the NHL announced on Monday that the Flames will now face the Oilers that day.
Edmonton and Calgary will also play on Saturday, when another tilt was scheduled between the Flames and Canucks.
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