It’s not unusual for football programs to be concerned with an infectious virus spreading through a locker room. The virus they’re almost always concerned with is staph. But San Diego State is battling a different biological nemesis right now: chickenpox.
Three Aztecs have been diagnosed with chickenpox, and head coach Rocky Long is concerned the number could grow in the coming days.
“I’m afraid that it might not be just three of them,” he told the San Diego Union-Tribune. “The team’s been together for a whole week now. It’s dramatic if we lose a few more. … What if it hits 10 other ones?”
As outlined by the Union-Tribune, senior linebacker Tyler Morris was the first to contract chickenpox. It then spread to senior linebacker Temerick Harper, who sits next to Morris in meetings. Harper then gave it to his roommate, junior offensive tackle Ryan Pope. Pope is a starter at right tackle, while Morris and Harper are backups on defensive and active on special teams.
All three are on medication, which, if effective, should get the virus under control within one week. If the medication does not work, it could take three weeks for chickenpox to run its course.
That’s, obviously, a concern for Long and the San Diego State staff with the Aztecs’ versus UC Davis now less than three weeks away. The greater concern is that the virus spreads throughout the locker room, a grave concern considering the amount of time and numerous points of potential contact — the practice field, the weight room, meeting rooms, shared restrooms, showers, busses, the list goes on and on — teams share at this time of year. And the scariest part? It’s too early to tell how far and wide the chickenpox outbreak could spread.
“One of our guys was real nervous because he hung out with those guys (Friday), and he (supposedly) knew he had never been vaccinated and he knew he never had it,” Long said. “So we called his mother and she said he had it when he was 7. So if you ask these guys, they don’t know if they had it or not.”
Chickenpox, which most people either contract and then immunize themselves against as children or take vaccines for, is most harmful against adults, with possible complications ranging up to pneumonia, brain inflammation and bacterial skin infections.