July 9, 2018 12:08 pm
Updated: July 9, 2018 10:40 pm

‘No hugging, no touching’: Rescued Thai boys put in isolation, at risk of cave disease

WATCH ABOVE: Rescued boys face physical, mental health challenges

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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.

READ MORE: 8th boy rescued from flooded Thai cave, 5 still remain trapped

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.

WATCH: Rescue effort continues with eight boys pulled from flooded cave

“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.

WATCH: Operation which rescued four more boys in Thailand was faster than first, officials say

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.

Bleeding lungs

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


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‘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.

READ MORE: A long, winding look inside a virtual cave like the one 12 Thai boys have to escape

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.”

Psychological symptoms

Aside from the physical illnesses, there is also the psychological strain of living in the dark hundreds of metres underground.
In the short term, the rescued children may develop psychological symptoms after being trapped in the cave for more than two weeks, Dr. Andrea Danese, head of the Stress and  Development Lab at the Institute of Psychiatry in the U.K. told the BBC.
“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,” he said.
“Just being in the dark at night might remind them of the incident and the rescue operation,” Danese added.
WATCH: Families of Thai soccer team quietly watch coverage of rescues from cave
There have been similar experiences of cave rescues like this in the past, such as the Chilean miners in 2010 who were trapped for 69 days. Because of their training and preparation, in some ways, the experience of the miners was more expected, Danese said. But for children stuck in the cave it was “unexpected”, and they may be at more risk of developing psychological symptoms, he added.
WATCH: New video shows doctors treating boys stuck inside cave in Thailand
— With files from Reuters

© 2018 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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