Skin infection puts a hold on Lake Stevens wrestling

By Sharon Salyer

Herald Writer

Practice and competitions for Lake Stevens High School’s wrestling team have been canceled for 10 days after three athletes were diagnosed with the skin form of herpes, the same virus that causes cold sores.

A fourth student is suspected of having the virus and is being checked by his doctor, school district spokeswoman Arlene Hulten said Thursday.

School officials want to ensure that no other team members have contracted the disease. Symptoms usually appear two to seven days after exposure.

Wrestling coaches at Kamiak and Lynnwood high schools also were contacted because the Lake Stevens wrestler who is suspected of having the virus wrestled with members of those two teams Wednesday night.

"We would never want to have a student wrestle anyone if they had this condition, and we do everything to prevent that," Hulten said, adding that wrestlers are checked by coaches and referees for skin problems.

"Certainly, we wouldn’t send athletes out there (to wrestle) who had herpes and it’s visible," she said.

The virus officially is known as herpes simplex type 1 or herpes gladiatorum. It is thought to be one of the most common infections spread by person-to-person contact during athletic activity.

The infection is spread by contact with an opponent’s skin lesions or virus-bearing saliva. On the skin, it causes small, fluid-filled blisters that spread the disease when they are rubbed and broken open. When the resulting scab heals, the virus is thought to be noncommunicable, said Dr. Chris Spitters of the Snohomish Health District.

"Almost every wrestling season, we seem to hear about it at least once in the metropolitan area," he said.

Once a person has become infected, the virus may not recur, but is "present or dormant in the nerve cells that supply the skin," Spitters said.

Health officials usually recommend that athletes be held out of competition while they have the active form of the disease, he said.

A 1996 investigation by the Snohomish Health District and the Washington State Department of Health found that 21 percent of 249 high school wrestlers and coaches had either possible or confirmed cases of the virus.

The Lake Stevens team will miss a varsity tournament and its first league match during the 10-day period while contact practice and matches are suspended.

Letters are being sent home to parents of team members to explain the problem.

All three high schools are consulting with a Western Washington University physician who often advises athletes on the condition and attends state tournaments.

At Kamiak, contact wresting practice has been temporarily suspended until a doctor can be consulted, although running and weight-lifting exercises are continuing, as they are at Lake Stevens.

It may affect next week’s scheduled matches on Tuesday and Thursday, said Kamiak wrestling coach Bill Donnelly.

Lynnwood’s wrestling coach said that the one member of his team who competed against the Lake Stevens wrestler suspected of having skin herpes will be held out of practice as a precaution until coaches know for sure if the Lake Stevens athlete has the skin virus.

"If we have any signs of anything, we’ll have him see a doctor immediately," said coach Kevin Judkins.

"We’ve never had a case at Lynnwood High School," he added.

During Wednesday night’s wresting competition, "We did very careful skin checks," he said. "There were no signs of it last night."

You can call Herald Writer Sharon Salyer at 425-339-3486 or send e-mail to

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