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Soccer Players and Their Coach Are on the Mend, Thailand Says

MAE SAI, Thailand — Twelve young soccer players and their coach were recovering well Wednesday, a day after the last of them left the remote cave in Thailand where they had been trapped since late June, a Thai public health official said.

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Navaon Siradapuvadol
Mike Ives, New York Times

MAE SAI, Thailand — Twelve young soccer players and their coach were recovering well Wednesday, a day after the last of them left the remote cave in Thailand where they had been trapped since late June, a Thai public health official said.

The official, Dr. Thongchai Lertwilairatanapong, the top public health doctor for Thailand’s northern region, told reporters Wednesday that while some tests were still pending, all of the boys and their 25-year-old coach were recovering swiftly under quarantine in a hospital in the city of Chiang Rai.

“None of them are stressed,” he added. “They took care of each other well in the cave.”

After arriving, conscious, at Chiangrai Prachanukroh Hospital over the past few days, the boys received tetanus and rabies vaccinations as well as vitamins and antibiotics, Thongchai said. But he said they were in different stages of recovery because they had arrived in three separate groups, beginning Sunday.

Medical specialists worry that aside from physical ailments, the boys could experience anxiety, panic attacks, recurrent nightmares, phobias or other symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder in the short or long term. But as of Wednesday, Thongchai said, the boys were all sleeping normally and had not received any anti-anxiety medication.

“Their mental health condition is good, maybe because they stayed together and helped each other,” he said, even as tests showed the average weight loss for the group was about 4.4 pounds per boy. “Their coach was very good at managing this.”

Families of the first four boys to be rescued visited them Tuesday, wearing protective clothing and keeping a distance of about 6 feet at all times, he said. The second group’s families were due to arrive Wednesday.

Thongchai said the first group of boys, ages 14 to 16, had begun eating normal food and were now in “very good condition.” Two had contracted pneumonia in the cave but were getting better, he added, and a wound on one of the boys’ ankles had healed.

The second group of four boys, ages 12 to 14, were receiving antibiotics after blood tests showed high counts of white blood cells, a sign of infection, overexertion or exposure to cold, he said. But they were eating mild food as of Wednesday morning and might be able to eat normal food by the evening, he said.

As for the third group of four boys and the coach, one of them had mild pneumonia upon arriving at the hospital Tuesday, Thongchai said. He said blood samples had been taken from all five and would be sent for testing at a lab in Bangkok, the Thai capital. Thongchai said blood tests on the first and second groups showed no signs of severe diseases that doctors had worried they might have contracted in the cave, including leptospirosis, a bacterial disease carried by rodents, or histoplasmosis, an infection caused by a fungus present in bat excrement.

Blood tests for scrub typhus, a disease spread through bites from infected larval mites, and another disease, henipavirus, also came up negative, he said.

Henipavirus is a genus that includes Nipah virus, a potentially fatal disease that can be transmitted to humans by bats through bites and contact with saliva or urine. A medical specialist who is not involved with treating the boys said in an email that a negative blood test would probably rule out infection with Nipah virus and other viruses within the genus.

Thongchai said the team would be monitored for two weeks, the second week at home, and that the boys had not yet been allowed to play — but they are sharing the same room and can talk with each other from their hospital beds.

The four members of the Thai military — one army doctor and three navy SEAL members — who stayed in the cave for eight days after the group was found were the last to emerge Tuesday. They arrived at the hospital that evening but were to be moved to an unspecified location Wednesday, Thongchai said.

Thai social media users Wednesday were jubilant about the boys’ rescue, with many posting drawings that depicted the rescued boys as wild boars — their soccer team mascot.

“The happiest morning,” one user wrote.

“Thank you so much to everyone in every organization and every country involved in this operation,” another wrote. “You are the real heroes.”

During their entrapment in the cave, the boys reportedly asked rescuers for news about the World Cup soccer tournament. And in recent days, there was some speculation about whether the boys would accept an invitation from FIFA to attend the World Cup final in Russia.

Thongchai said the Wild Boars would not be attending because they would still be under quarantine. But, in a way, they were still stars of the show: After France beat Belgium in the World Cup semifinals Tuesday, French star Paul Pogba praised the boys to his more than 5 million Twitter followers, posting a composite photo of all 12 of them and dedicated the French win to them.

“This victory goes to the heroes of the day, well done boys, you are so strong,” he wrote.

As of late Wednesday afternoon, Pogba’s post had been liked or retweeted by about 120,000 Twitter users — about 40,000 more than the number of seats in the Moscow stadium where the final will be played.

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