UW tackles another foe in flu outbreak
By TOM MULHERN
Wednesday, September 9, 2009 6:06 AM CDT
MADISON -- The University of Wisconsin football team is scrambling to prepare for a home game against Fresno State Saturday after a large number of players came down with flu-like symptoms this week.
Dennis Helwig, director of sports medicine at UW, met with the media Tuesday night and would only confirm a number in the “low double-digits.“
Other reports had the number much higher. Brian Wozniak, a freshman tight end, wrote on Twitter.com just after noon that 45 players were out.
“I don’t want to dwell on that, but it can change,” Helwig said of the total number. “Somebody that was exposed earlier might be back certainly in the next couple days.“
Helwig could not confirm if any of the players is infected with the H1NI virus, or swine flu, which has hit the UW campus in recent days and also affected large numbers of athletes at schools like Tulane, Duke and Mississippi. Tests to confirm the presence of swine flu take two weeks to complete.
“We’ve tested some of our athletes, but. ... we don’t have any confirmation on any tests,” Helwig said.
Helwig said the first reported case of a football player with the symptoms was Sunday, although UW coach Bret Bielema said some players started feeling ill Saturday night. The Badgers opened their season with a 28-20 victory over Northern Illinois on Saturday evening.
“We had a number of guys out today,” Bielema said after a shortened practice Tuesday. “Hopefully, with some of the things they’re doing in the training room, in addition to just getting some good rest, those guys will be able to join us (Wednesday).
“How many that number is, I don’t know. What they have, I don’t know. All I know is we’ve got to learn to deal with it and we did.“
UW officials have been bracing for a potential outbreak and preparing since last spring.
College athletes are considered to be ideal candidates for the swine flu, according to an article in The New York Times. Athletes share dorm rooms, cafeterias and sometimes unsanitary locker rooms. The strain tends to spread most quickly among young adults who have not built an immunity to flu strains.
“We’ve been preparing for this for quite some time,” Helwig said. “The university has put out all sorts of alerts to the students. We’ve had talks with our student-athletes about this. We felt it was coming, because of everybody coming back to school. That’s when we usually see an outbreak of symptoms like this.“
Helwig believes the preparation allowed the university to act quickly. But without a vaccine, there was not much that could be done to prevent it.
“We were on this,” he said. “We were talking to our players well before we had any first signs or symptoms. We’ve been on it.
“We all had this timeline, we’re not going to get the vaccine until October. So, there really isn’t anything we can do to effectively prevent this until we get the vaccine. Everybody, all across the country, is under this same thing where we have this void in here where we have to let things run their course and deal with it as it comes in.“
Prior to the football outbreak, Helwig said there were symptoms with the swimming team and the coach decided to suspend practices. “They’re not in season,” Helwig said.
Helwig said the symptoms include some fevers of more than 100 degrees, sore throats and body aches.
“They tell us on campus and everything that’s going around, this is a fairly short duration, three to four days,” Helwig said. “So we’re on top of anybody that has it.“
Bielema said junior left tackle Gabe Carimi was one of the first football players to come down with the symptoms.
“On Sunday, we sent him home,” Bielema said. “He went home and got a good night’s rest and came back and practiced really well today. Our entire offensive line was intact. It was good to see those guys, because you could see, if they get the reps, they’re going to move forward.“
Tuesday is generally the biggest workload of the week. Bielema said he shortened practice to help the players who are returning with their stamina, as well as players who might just be coming down with symptoms.
“We didn’t want to tax them and wear them down, have them in a situation where they weren’t able to go out and perform (Wednesday),” Bielema said.
Bielema did not mention any specific positions that were hit hard. He said the younger players, who tend to live in the dorms, were among the first players to come down with symptoms. Many of them are not expected to play this week. Then some of the older players started coming down with it on Monday.
“Now, it’s kind of a hodgepodge of everything,” Bielema said.
Even if most of the players are back in time for Saturday’s game, it will still have a big impact on the game plan, which will likely have to be condensed.
“As coaches, we have to be smart about what we’re doing, what we can kind of ask our kids to do with limited practice time,” Bielema said.
“We’ve got to prepare for it,” he added. “It’s really on how we handle the situation and that’s exactly what we’ve got to do.“http://www.chippewa.com/articles/2009/0 ... 648806.txt