"Mat herpes" puts wrestlers on sidelines

February 3, 2009 2:47:00 PM PST
High school wrestlers in Chester and Montgomery Counties have been infected with a contagious skin infection. School officials there are taking precautions to stop it from spreading.

The wrestling rooms at many Montgomery and Chester county high schools are sitting vacant, after athletic directors of the Ches-Mont league unanimously recommended the suspension of intra-league competition for 8 days.

Several students at five schools in the league there were infected with herpes gladiatorum, more commonly called "mat herpes." It's a contagious skin infection caused by herpes simplex one virus.

Robert Partridge of the West Chester area schools says, "By limiting the exposure and interaction with the athletes, you can really reduce the likelihood it'll be passed on so while people are not happy- really it was the only responsible way to go."

The Great Valley High school Pariots were the first to suspend their program after a student there had symptoms.

The principal there is also a former wrestler and says while mat herpes is not rare in the sport, it has to be taken seriously.

Dan Goffredo, Great Valley's principal says, "We were concerned yet we wanted to approach it without causing panic."

He says letters were sent home to parents and students and they continued their already strict cleaning regimen.

The virus is typically spread through skin on skin contact. It doesn't live long on surfaces, such as wrestling mats or gear.

But still, at Henderson High, they've stepped up their cleaning, from the gym to the locker room, and all of the equipment.

A custodian showed Action News, "We walked through, and started opening up the lockers, to make sure we cleaned thoroughly."

Once someone is infected with the virus, they remain at risk for future outbreaks. So while competition will resume February 9th, the schools will remain on high alert.

Goffredo says his staff is "keeping an eye on it- having the boys report anything unusual or suspicious."

CLICK HERE to follow Action News on Twitter

CLICK HERE to get Action News on your website

CLICK HERE to find Action News on Facebook

Click here to get the latest Philadelphia news and headlines from across the Delaware and Lehigh valleys.