Next Hurdle for Rescued Soccer Team: 'Cave Disease'

The Thai soccer team has been rescued from the Tham Luan Nang Non cave, but doctors fear they may not be out of danger yet.

The 12 young soccer players -- all between the ages of 11 and 16 -- and their 25-year-old coach, are under close medical surveillance for signs of "cave disease" and other infections. According to a report by Fox News, "cave disease" is the condition of histoplasmosis. It is an infection in the lungs caused by Histoplasma fungus, which is often found in caves like the one where the team was trapped for over two weeks.

According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, Histoplasma is worst in areas with a high population of birds and bats. It's not just a threat underground, either.

"People can get histoplasmosis after breathing in the microscopic fungal spores from the air, often after participating in activities that disturb the soil," reads a CDC blog post. "Although most people who breathe in the spores don’t get sick, those who do may have a fever, cough, and fatigue."

Right now, all 12 boys and their coach appear healthy and relatively unharmed. Sources told Fox News that they are even in high spirits after their rescue, eager to have their favorite foods again and enjoy their renewed lease on life. However, the hospital will keep them for at least seven more days to watch for signs of trouble. The Public Health Ministry secretary Jedsada Chokdumrongsuk explained the precaution, though he seemed optimistic.

"The kids are footballers so they have high immune systems," Chokdumrongsuk explained. "Everyone is in high spirits and are happy to get out. But we will have a psychiatrist to evaluate them."

Chokdumrongsuk admitted that cases like these are extremely rare. Officials will screen each boy carefully for a wide range of ailments, "because we have never experienced this kind of issue from a deep cave."

The first four boys were brought to safety on Sunday evening, while the last four emerged along with their coach on Tuesday.


The team was saved from the cave with no time to spare, as monsoon season bears down on Thailand. Experts worried that if they could not beat impending rainstorms to the boys, the cave would become inaccessible until October, when the season ends.

The boys wound up trapped in the cave on Jun 23, when they went out for a picnic after soccer practice, according to a report by Express. The curious youngsters began exploring the cave during their picnic, but before long they were all trapped. They were there for nine full days when diving experts found them.