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Outbreak of herpes suspends wrestling

There won't be any high school wrestling in Minnesota for the next eight days due to a skin-infection outbreak. The Minnesota State High School League shut down all prep wrestling from Tuesday through Feb. 6. The outbreak was first noticed at a t...

There won't be any high school wrestling in Minnesota for the next eight days due to a skin-infection outbreak.

The Minnesota State High School League shut down all prep wrestling from Tuesday through Feb. 6.

The outbreak was first noticed at a team tournament in Rochester on Dec. 29-30. Since that tournament, 10 teams have reported wrestlers with skin lesions on the face, head or neck, according to the MSHSL.

"Usually, they shut the programs involved down for eight days, not everyone," Barnesville wrestling coach Art Meyer said. "I'm not sure why they didn't shut them down earlier if they knew about it around the Christmas break."

The MSHSL reported 24 confirmed cases of herpes gladiatorum - a herpes simplex


Type 1 virus - among 10 teams in the weight classes of 189, 215 and 285. North Dakota doesn't have similar plans to shut down high school wrestling even though some teams have competed against Minnesota schools.

"We're doing our due diligence by researching right now because they (Minnesota) have a situation that has surfaced," said Dave Carlsrud, North Dakota High School Activities Association assistant executive secretary. "We haven't had a situation surface here."

West Fargo head coach Kayle Dangerud said it appears his team is fine despite wrestling in tournaments that featured Minnesota teams in late December and early January.

"At this point, I think we're OK," Dangerud said. "If something would have happened with our kids, they would have brought it to our attention."

Fargo South was scheduled to wrestle against Moorhead on Tuesday before the MSHSL ruling.

"This has probably been the best year we've had in the last five years," South head coach Lynn Forde said. "We haven't had one incident of skin disease."

Perham, Minn., coach Robb Moser held his 215- and

285-pound wrestlers out of matches in the title dual against Coon Rapids at the Gadberry Duals earlier this month because of suspicion of skin infection.


"I have no idea if they had anything, but we didn't wrestle our upper weights just to be careful," Moser said. "... This is just (the MSHSL) being careful."

"For the uneducated person, they're saying 'Oh, my gosh. This is rampant,' " he added. "That's just not the case."

One reason behind the high school league ruling was to try to get the problem cleared up in time for the state tournament, which is Feb. 28 to March 3.

Moorhead faced a similar problem at last year's state meet when standout

160-pounder Jay Thoreson was disqualified because of a similar infection. Thoreson was

37-0 entering the state meet.

"I think this is a good idea because I would never want what happened to us last year to happen to anyone else," Moorhead coach Paul Larson said. "You want to prevent that, and this is a good way of being proactive."

Dr. B.J. Anderson, a former wrestler who acts as a health adviser to the high school league, said the greatest concern is an infection of the eye, which can, in rare cases, lead to scarring or blindness. The virus can remain in the body indefinitely, he said.


A similar outbreak occurred in 1999, affecting 63 wrestlers and disqualifying several of them from the state tournament, Anderson said.

Dr. Henry Balfour, a national expert on herpes who works in the department of virology at the University of Minnesota, said wrestlers are at a high risk for this sort of infection because of the nature of the sport.

"Usually you have to have damage to the skin," he said. "If there is a break in the skin ... then the virus could take and cause a skin infection."

Prep sport shuts down

- The problem: At least 24 Minnesota high school wrestlers have contracted herpes gladiatorum, a virus spread by skin-to-skin contact. The symptoms include lesions on the face, head and neck. The infections were first noticed in late December.

- The reaction: The Minnesota State High School League banned competitions and direct contact between wrestlers in practice until Feb. 6.

- The hope: The league wants to contain the current outbreak, allow time to diagnose new cases and prevent disqualifications at the state tournament, Feb. 28 to March 3.

Herpes gladiatorum


- What is it? Herpes gladiatorum is a skin infection caused by the herpes simplex virus.

It occurs often in wrestlers. It causes a rash that commonly appears on the face, neck, shoulder and arms.

- How is it treated? The rash usually lasts seven to 10 days. It is important that you do not have skin contact with any uninfected person.

- How can it be prevented?

It is important to clean and disinfect wrestling mats.

Source: University of Michigan Health System

Forum reporter Eric Peterson and The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Readers can reach Forum sportswriter


Kerry Collins at (701) 241-5548. Collins' prep sports blog can be found

at www.areavoices.com

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