Nebraska wrestler eyed in Minn. herpes outbreak

OMAHA, Neb. -- A wrestler from Nebraska has been identified as
the possible source of a skin herpes outbreak that prompted
Minnesota high school officials to impose an eight-day suspension
of wrestling competitions and contact practices.

Nebraska doesn't plan a similar moratorium, Jim Tenopir, the
executive director of the Nebraska School Activities Association,
said Wednesday.

The Minnesota State High School League banned wrestling until
Feb. 6 after 24 cases of herpes gladiatorum were reported by 10
teams. The virus is spread by skin-to-skin contact, and symptoms
include lesions on the face, head and neck.

The suspension is meant to control the current outbreak and
allow time to diagnose new cases.

The Minnesota Department of Health has been tracking the virus,
caused by herpes simplex Type 1, the same strain that causes cold
sores. Officials first became aware of the outbreak at the Clash
Duals in Rochester Dec. 29-30.

Valentine and Omaha Skutt were the only Nebraska schools in the
tournament, which drew 32 teams from 13 states.

Steve Patton, tournament chairman of the Clash, told the St.
Paul (Minn.) Pioneer Press that a wrestler from Valentine initially
was identified as a possible carrier, but he said there was no
proof. Two of the three teams Valentine wrestled in Rochester
reported herpes cases, the newspaper reported.

B.J. Anderson, a former wrestler who acts as a health adviser to
the Minnesota high school league, told The Associated Press that he
would neither confirm nor deny that a Valentine wrestler was the
suspected carrier.

"Will I say which team? I can't. I have to respect these
teams," Anderson said. "I can say that all teams involved have
been notified of the problem."

As of Wednesday, no Valentine wrestler had been diagnosed with
herpes, athletic director Rick Hesse said. Valentine has competed
in three tournaments and two dual meets since the Rochester event,
and no opposing wrestlers are known to have contracted herpes,
Hesse said.

One Valentine wrestler was treated for impetigo before the
Rochester tournament, Hesse said. The wrestler was not believed to
have been contagious when he arrived at the tournament, Hesse said,
and physicians who were working at the meet cleared him to
participate. Impetigo is a common bacterial skin infection that
causes red sores.

Anderson said bacterial infections such as herpes and impetigo
are difficult to differentiate by sight. Anderson said the medical
community needs to be more vigilant about taking cultures to more
accurately diagnose skin disorders among athletes competing in such
a close-contact sport.

The Valentine wrestler -- who was not identified -- was to undergo
further tests this week, Hesse said.

The type of herpes at issue is a "huge inconvenience" for the
afflicted, Anderson said. There are no major long-term health
concerns unless the area involved is near the eyes, he said. The
cornea would be at risk in those cases, with blindness a remote
possibility, he said.

Mike McMahon, athletic director at Skutt Catholic High School in
Omaha, said his wrestlers have all been checked and nothing was

Even though Nebraska won't suspend wrestling unless there is
evidence of an outbreak, Tenopir said the NSAA's concern is

Tenopir said coaches and athletic trainers have been asked to
check all wrestlers for skin lesions and rashes, to get medical
attention for any wrestler with skin irregularities and to report
back to the NSAA. Schools also are being told to make sure they are
using strong disinfectants when cleaning mats.

"It's a very wicked virus to contract and it's something that
stays with kids the rest of their lives," he said.

Tenopir said the Minnesota officials he's spoken with aren't as
interested in identifying the source of the herpes as much as
stopping its spread.

"They don't want another state to have to go through what
they're going through," Tenopir said.