Cave Disease: Exposure Before the Rescue Puts Thai Soccer Team at Risk

Thai soccer team might have cave disease

The world held its breath as the soccer team from Thailand fought to survive while trapped in a cave for over 2 weeks. Now that they’re rescued, though, experts are saying their fight isn’t over. The 12 boys and their coach may be at risk for a number of infections, especially “cave disease.”

At first, medical professionals were most concerned about hypothermia, reports Health. As the days passed, however, experts are watching more closely for signs of lung infections like cave disease (or histoplasmosis).

What is cave disease?

Cave disease, also known as histoplasmosis, is an infection that comes from breathing in spores of certain fungi. This is most likely to occur in people who’ve been exposed to bat and bird droppings, says the Mayo Clinic.

While most healthy individuals may be able to fight off infection, this isn’t always the case. The spores can remain dormant in the lungs until the immune system has been more compromised. This is when they might activate and cause real damage. 

What experts find concerning in this scenario is that the entire team had compromised immune systems. This makes sense because they spent two weeks without proper nutrition in a dark cave. Therefore, the team had high exposure to the spores that could lead to the disease.

For now, the team is being quarantined in a nearby hospital for close monitoring, reports CNN.

What does cave disease look like?

Health professionals are watching for flu-like symptoms because they are indicative of the cave disease illness. If the members of the soccer team begin to have a fever, chills, muscle aches, and a dry cough, then they probably did contract the disease in the cave.

Sometimes, though, the disease can progress to other organs, says the Mayo Clinic. At that point, the illness becomes “disseminated histoplasmosis,” which affects nearly every part of the body. This type of cave disease is often deadly. 

Other than the soccer team spelunking in unknown cave territory, people can get histoplasmosis through farming, working around poultry, doing construction, or even gardening.

What about the Thai soccer team?

According to Men’s Health, experts are simply awaiting test results to make sure the boys haven’t contracted any infections. Several boys were showing signs of lung infection early on, but more details surrounding those illnesses are yet to be specified.

Overall, the team could be at risk for a variety of infections, including pneumonia and rabies. We can only hope that their story will continue to be as miraculous as their rescue—and that the entire team will come out unscathed.