Last weekend, three Huntington (WV) High School wrestlers competed at the West Virginia AAA Region IV Tournament with what was confirmed later as cases of HSV-1 or herpes simplex virus type 1, according to a Flowrestling report.
This prompted the West Virginia Secondary Schools Athletic Commission (WVSSAC) to issue a statement to coaches concerning the case.
As of Friday, 48 athletes have been sidelined from competing in the West Virginia State High School Wrestling Tournament due to the contagious skin disease. The tournament was postponed for the first time in more than three decades.
Herpes gladiatorum, also known as “wrestler’s herpes” and “mat pox,” is a skin infection caused by the Herpes Simplex Type 1 virus (HSV-1), the same type that causes cold sores. This skin infection is spread by direct skin-to-skin contact.
This infection is characterized by a rash with clusters of sometimes-painful fluid-filled blisters, often on the neck, chest, face, stomach and legs. Other symptoms include sore throat, swollen lymph nodes, fever or tingling on the skin.
Each blister contains infectious virus particles, which are spread person-to-person via skin contact. Abrasive contact as found in contact sports like wrestling is a very common mode of transmission.
Hygiene is the key in preventing outbreaks such as this one in West Virginia. Showering, not sharing towels, and keeping equipment and gear disinfected are some measures.
Screening by skin check to exclude persons with suspicious infections from engaging in contact sports is another important preventive measure.