The youth soccer players being rescued from a flooded cave in Thailand may have caught a disease from bat and bird poop while stuck inside the dank cavern for more than two weeks, according to reports.
Potentially deadly histoplasmosis — a lung infection also known as “cave disease” and “spelunker’s lung” caused by breathing in spores from animal waste — is one of several illnesses that medical experts are worried the 12 boys and their coach could have contracted while trapped deep in the subterranean system.
“These are spores that reside frequently in caves and are often found in the excretions of bats,” Dr. Paul Auerbach, a professor of emergency medicine at California’s Stanford University, told CTV News.
For healthy people, cave disease just causes a bit of a fever and a cough — but those with compromised immune systems may start coughing up blood and could die if it goes untreated and spreads through the body, he said.
The eight boys already evacuated from the cave over the weekend are being held in isolation — and aren’t even allowed to hug their parents — as doctors assess them for histoplasmosis and other conditions.
“Hypothermia is the scariest condition. The body temperature drops as the water is very cold,” a media told Reuters ahead of the rescue.
“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.”
The boys, who got stuck inside the cave when it flooded June 23, survived until they were found nine days later only by drinking water that dripped off the stalactites hanging above them.
The rescuers who found the kids brought food, and the kids were able to get their strength up before they began diving and trekking out of the labyrinthine cave network over the weekend.
The sickest boys were brought out first, officials revealed Monday, as five people still remained inside.