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Boys Trapped In Thai Cave May Have Caught Histoplasmosis From Bat And Bird Poop

Jul 10, 2018 12:08 AM EDT
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The rescue operations continue for the youth soccer team and their coach who have been trapped in a cave in Thailand since June 23.

Eight of the boys aged 11 to 16 have already been pulled out, while four others along with the 25-year-old coach remain waiting for rescue. However, even when they return to solid ground, the ordeal may not be over for the 13 survivors.

Health Threats Still At Bay

Trauma and stress aside, getting stuck inside the flooded cave for over two weeks may have made all 13 of them vulnerable to an array of diseases. In anticipation of this, a massive medical mission has been prepared ahead of the rescue.

"Hypothermia is the scariest condition. The body temperature drops as the water is very cold," a medic tells Reuters, adding that a whole section of the hospital has been prepared for the team. "But what we're most concerned with is infections. There are all kinds of diseases in the cave, from bats, from dirty water. Everything in there is very dirty."

One of the major fears is histoplasmosis. Known as "cave disease," histoplasmosis is an infection caused by the fungus histoplasma that lives in soil rich in bat or bird droppings, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Individuals can get infected just by breathing in the fungal spores, so the trapped team could have easily gotten infected during their time inside the cave. While healthy individuals can fight off histoplasmosis naturally, the infection has also been recorded to get very severe.

Leptospirosis, a serious bacterial disease that can be fatal, is another concern. Dehydration and malnutrition will also be checked.

Psychological strains in the coming weeks, including insomnia, depression, and post-traumatic stress are also reportedly some of the things physicians will be watching out for in the rescued boys and their coach.

For now, the rescued boys are being kept in isolation. CBS News reports that medical evaluation is expected to be three to seven days.

The Rescue Mission 

Two weeks and counting, and still the rescue operations remain incredibly high-risk.

According to CBS, each child was assigned two divers to guide them through 2.5 miles of murky waters. The pathway is narrow and consists of alternating deep waters and rocky climbs. One particularly treacherous section requires the boy to separate himself from the guides to squeeze through a 15-inch area.

Re-setting the oxygen tanks takes about 20 hours, which is why the rescue team could only rescue four people every day. Four of the boys were rescued on Sunday, another four on Monday, and four remain with their coach in the flooded cave.

The strongest boys got out first, since rescuers wanted those with the best chance of survival to go through the dangerous escape route.

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