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Health Department Urges Caution Among Wrestlers

Health Department Urges Caution Among Wrestlers

Posted - Jan. 17, 2004 at 4:43 p.m.



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Sandra Yi ReportingHigh school athletes are wrestling with a rash of infection. So far the Health Department has identified nearly 60 cases of wrestlers with a similar skin rash, but one disease may not be to blame.

While the symptoms among infected athletes are similar, three different test results have identified three different organisms.

Susan Mottice, Epidemiologist, Utah Dept. of Health: “We’ve identified 57 cases thus far and we now have one case in every local health department.”

Illness sidelined the entire team at Delta High School. One wrestler from Tooele High School had to be hospitalized for an aggressive skin rash.

Fear of an outbreak had coaches on alert. Yesterday at wrestling tournaments around the state the usual health guidelines carried more weight.

Still, health officials have yet to pin a common culprit. Culture results for four athletes have come back with three different organisms: herpes, which is a viral infection, and staph and strep bacteria. The Health Department still doesn't know exactly what the 53 other athletes have come down with.

Susan Mottice: "It could be that most of them are one of the three and we just don't know that yet and we just coincidentally picked up the three different ones in the first couple of tries."

So far the Health Department has not advised canceling league tournaments. But it recommends that any wrestlers who may be infectious, not practice or compete.

Athletes should also avoid sharing towels and razors and always shower with hot water and soap immediately after competing. Schools also need to properly decontaminate equipment such as mats and head gear.

The Health Department is urging caution, not alarm. The diseases can only be spread through close skin-to-skin contact.

Susan Mottice: "Wrestlers are known for having a lot of skin infections and we've never looked to see how many they normally have, so this might not be an unusual number. There have been quite a few outbreaks nationwide that we've read reports on indicating that while this is an unusual occurrence, it's not unprecedented."

The Health Department says if you're a wrestler with a skin rash and a doctor gave you antibiotics, you should be well enough to go back to school in 48 hours. If not, you should go back to your doctor. Because there are three different illnesses going around, you may not have been treated for the right one.

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