As the rescue mission for the boys’ soccer team trapped in a Thai cave continues, health officials are focusing on how to treat the children for possible dehydration, malnutrition and an airborne lung infection known as “cave disease.”
As of Monday, eight boys had been rescued from the cave, but four still remain trapped, including the soccer coach. The boys spent more than two weeks in the dark, damp cave, meaning they are not only at risk of physical ailments but also psychological ones.
The freed children, who are reportedly in good shape in the Chiang Rai Prachanukroh hospital, still have yet to reunite with their parents, who late on Sunday night were not told which of the boys had been rescued.
According to local media, doctors said the delay is to manage the mental health of the parents whose children are still inside the cave, as well as to ensure the boys can be tested for any diseases they might have picked up inside the damp cave.
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“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,” a medic on scene told Reuters.
Here are some of the physical and mental factors the boys are up against.
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Concern for ‘cave disease’
One of the biggest concerns medical teams will be looking for is the boys developing an airborne lung infection known as histoplasmosis, or “cave disease,” which is caused by bat and bird droppings. It can be fatal if it is untreated and spreads to other parts of the body.
Medical officials will also be examing the children for leptospirosis, an infection caused by bacteria which can lead to severe bleeding from the lungs, meningitis and even death.
WATCH: Hospital readies for arrival of Thai boys trapped in cave as rescue underway
‘No hugging, no touching’
A health official told local media that the boys should hopefully be able to see their families on Monday night but there will be “no hugging, no touching,” until their blood work comes back.
Local media reported some of the children have undergone blood tests, lung X-rays and urine tests.
Narongsak Osottanakorn, former governor of Chiang Rai province and the head of the joint command centre coordinating the operation, said the boys in isolation are in a glass room, and the parents may be able to visit them from the outside.
“The medical team is considering whether to let the closest relatives visit them,” Osatanakorn said. “It could be a visit through transparent glass rooms. We are discussing this with doctors at the hospital.”
“Just being in the dark at night might remind them of the incident and the rescue operation,” Danese added.