Kelvin Herrera, Alex Rios Infected as Chickenpox Hits Royals’ Clubhouse

Andy McCullough, Kansas City Star, September 1, 2015

As he pondered how to handle a health crisis facing his baseball team, manager Ned Yost reached out this last weekend to his mother. Several Royals also contacted their families, all asking some version of a question they had not pondered since childhood: Mom, did I ever have the chickenpox?

The answer became imperative, at the behest of the Kansas City medical staff, as the team dealt with an outbreak as they completed a series against the Tampa Bay Rays at Tropicana Field in St. Petersburg, Fla. Outfielder Alex Rios and All-Star reliever Kelvin Herrera both have been infected with the virus and could miss at least two weeks of action, as The Star first reported on Tuesday.

An examination on Monday of both players confirmed the diagnosis. Each man has been quarantined at his home in the area. The team spent the weekend conducting “damage control,” in the words of trainer Nick Kenney, making sure the rest of their players and staffers are inoculated against the virus.

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The Royals believe the infections are limited to Herrera and Rios. The most at-risk players are those from countries in Latin America, where the chances of childhood inoculation are lower, experts say. Though the scenario sounds more amusing than worrisome–a World Series contender stricken by a children’s illness–the reality is far more insidious, given the severity of the virus when adults catch it.

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The chickenpox virus spreads through the air or through bodily contact. The symptoms are well-known to parents, as itchy blisters overrun the skin and the body grapples with fatigue and fever. Chickenpox manifests in the same way for grown-ups, only patients suffer more and face complications like pneumonia and brain infections, experts say.

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The team’s general theory is Rios caught the infection from a child. Several members of the team have brought their children on the road with them during the summer. {snip}

{snip}Harpaz, the expert from the CDC, suggested that “for reasons that are not well-understood,” people raised in Caribbean climates are often more susceptible to the chickenpox as adults in America. Rios grew up in Puerto Rico. Herrera grew up in the Dominican Republic.

“One of the main theories is that the virus just doesn’t last as long in tropical conditions, so the likelihood of you catching it is enough reduced to make it that less contagious,” Harpaz said.

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