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After two harrowing weeks trapped inside a dark, damp cave, the entire Thai soccer team — 12 players, ages 11 to 16, and their 25-year-old coach — has been successfully rescued from the Tham Luan Nang Non cave.
Thai Navy SEALSon Tuesday, completing their high-risk mission through rising floodwaters.
The conditions of those saved on Tuesday were unclear. However, health officials said the eight boys brought out by divers on Sunday and Monday were doing well — some even requesting treats. The players all appeared "healthy and smiling," officials said.
Trapped in Thai cave, youngsters must grapple with stress
The boys were discovered July 2 after 10 days totally cut off from the outside world, and while they are for the most physically healthy, experts say the ordeal has likely taken a mental toll that could worsen the longer the situation lasts.Before the 25-year-old was a coach to the young boys on the Wild Boars soccer team — 12 of whom are trapped alongside him — he spent a decade as a saffron-robed Buddhist monk. He still stays at the temple from time to time and will meditate with the monks there each day.
The dangerous search and rescue mission is over, but the boys and their coach may have another potential battle ahead of them: "cave disease," also known as histoplasmosis.
Here's what you need to know about "cave disease" and the journey the team has ahead of them as they recover.
What is "cave disease?"
"Cave disease," also called histoplasmosis, is a lung infection caused by the fungus "Histoplasma," which thrives in areas with high bird or bat populations,
"People can get histoplasmosis after breathing in the microscopic fungal spores from the air, often after participating in activities that disturb the soil," the CDC explains in a blog post online. "Although most people who breathe in the spores don’t get sick, those who do may have a fever, cough, and fatigue."
Medical issues facing Thailand cave survivors
Boys rescued from flooded cave are being treated at a local hospital. A doctor describes what medics can expect to see when evaluating the boys.Four more boys were pulled from a flooded cave in Thailand Monday morning, bringing the total number of boys rescued so far to eight, with four others and their coach still trapped. The rescues come after two weeks trapped underground without sunlight.
Most people who contract histoplasmosis just need time to recover, but those who have weakened immune systems could be at risk for serious, sometimes fatal, infections.
"In some people, such as those who have weakened immune systems, the infection can become severe, especially if it spreads from the lungs to other organs," the CDC says.
There is medicine to treat the disease, however. According to the CDC, many doctors prescribe the antifungal medication Itraconazole, which may need to be taken anywhere from three months to a year in order to completely fight off the infection.
What is the health status of the Thai soccer team and their coach?
Thailand's Navy SEALs confirmed that all 12 boys and their coach are safe and have been transported via helicopter to local hospitals.
Jedsada Chokdumrongsuk, permanent secretary at the Public Health Ministry, said at least two of the boys have a lung infection.
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"The kids are footballers so they have high immune systems," Chokdumrongsuk said. "Everyone is in high spirits and are happy to get out. But we will have a psychiatrist to evaluate them."
It could be at least seven days before they can be released from the hospital, Chokdumrongsuk said. Doctors are taking a cautious approach, placing the boys in isolation as they monitor their health and watch for infections.
They are uncertain what type of infections the boys could face "because we have never experienced this kind of issue from a deep cave," Chokdumrongsuk added.
If medical tests show no dangers after a period of a week parents will be able to enter the isolation area dressed in sterilized clothing and staying 2 yards away from the boys, public health official Tosthep Bunthong announced at a news conference this week.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.
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