"Don't hug them, don't touch them": Rescued Thai boys put in quarantine as risk of "cave disease" spooks specialists
Reports state that health officials are now focusing on treating the children for possible dehydration, malnutrition and an airborne lung infection known as "cave disease."
At least eight of the boys stranded in a cave in Thailand for days were rescued by Monday after strenuous efforts. As the rescue team preps for further attempts to save four more boys and their 15-year-old soccer coach, the ones saved have been kept in isolation.
Reports state that health officials are now focusing on treating the children for dehydration, malnutrition and the possibility of an airborne lung infection known as "cave disease."
The disease, also known as histoplasmosis, is an airborne lung infection, which is caused by bat and bird droppings. One of the biggest concerns of the medical teams is to ensure that the boys do not develop the condition. Reports state that if left untreated the disease could spread to other parts of the body and can be fatal.
The boys and the 25-year-old coach were first spotted by a team of elite British divers last Monday who volunteered to help in the search and rescue efforts. The divers — one of the best in the world — succeeded in spotting the team huddled together on a rocky ledge in the darkness, emaciated.
The soccer team, which calls themselves the Wild Boars, was found on Monday night after they went missing during an excursion with their coach when they decided to walk into the Tham Luang cave network on June 23 and were trapped because of the rising waters.
The boys spent over two weeks in the dark, damp cave which suggests that they are not only at risk of physical ailments but also psychological ones.
The eight rescued children were admitted in the Chiang Rai Prachanukroh hospital on Monday and are said to be in good health. However, the boys are yet to go near their parents and families. Reports state that the boys' families and relatives have not been informed which of the boys out the stranded 12 were rescued.
Doctors, however, have said that the delay to reveal the names of the children is an attempt to manage the mental health of the parents who children are still inside the cave. The experts added that the children are also being tested currently for any diseases they might have picked from staying inside the damp cave for weeks.
A medic on the scene told Reuters: "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."
According to Global News, medical officials will also examine the children for leptospirosis, which is an infection caused by bacteria. The infection could lead to meningitis, severe bleeding from the lungs and even death. Reports state that the children have undergone blood tests, lung X-rays and urine tests.
A health official, however, said that the boys should hopefully be able to see their families by Monday night but there will be "no hugging, no touching," until their blood work comes back.
Former governor of Chiang Rai province and the head of the joint command centre coordination the operation, Narongsak Osottanakorn, said that the boys have been kept in isolation and are in a glass room. He added that their parents may be able to visit the boys from the outside.
Osatanakorn: "The medical team is considering whether to let the closest relatives visit them. It could be a visit through transparent glass rooms. We are discussing this with doctors at the hospital."
The head of the Stress and Development Lab at the Institute of Psychiatry in the UK, Dr. Andrea Danese, while talking to the BBC, said that the children, in the weeks they were living in the dark hundreds of metres underground, may have developed psychological symptoms.
"I expect that a sizeable minority of these children not only will develop emotional symptoms — being tearful, being more clingy with their parents — but also diagnosable mental health problems, such as depression, anxiety, post-traumatic stress disorder,” Danese said.
“Just being in the dark at night might remind them of the incident and the rescue operation,” he added.