THE BOYS rescued from Tham Luang cave in Chiang Rai are largely in good physical health but may experience some mental problems and need assistance to help them return to normal life, doctors said.
Dr Tossathep Boonthong, chief of Chiang Rai Provincial Public Health Office, said that as of yesterday morning eight of the 13 teenage footballers who were trapped inside the flooded cave since June 23 were being checked at Chiangrai Prachanukroh Hospital.
Tossathep said that medical check-ups showed the eight youngsters were in good physical health, but two of them were diagnosed with mild cases of pneumonia.
“Even though most of the rescued footballers’ physical health is relatively strong, they still have to consume only mild food so their digestive system can recover, as they have just been through a long period without food,” he said.
“Moreover, all of them also have to remain inside the quarantine zone at the hospital for seven days to make sure that they do not infect [others] with any diseases from inside the cave before they can go back home.”
The remaining five survivors were rescued from the cave last night. They will go through the same medical process and be quarantined at the hospital for seven days.
Dr Thiravat Hemachudha, who heads the Emerging Infectious Disease Health Science Centre at Chulalongkorn University’s Faculty of Medicine, said the reason for the quarantine was to ensure the efficient treatment of the survivors in case they have been infected with unusual or newly emerged diseases and to prevent an outbreak of any possible disease.
“It is very important for all rescued survivors to be quarantined for at least seven days, because their prolonged stays inside the cave, trapped by floodwater, have increased survivors’ risk of being infected by harmful bacteria or viruses from inside the cave, which may cause rare and harmful contagious diseases,” Thiravat said.
“This is because there are many species of cave animals that can transmit diseases to humans. For example, the bat is the natural host for the nipah virus and can spread this dangerous infectious disease to various kinds of mammals, including humans.”
He also said that after the survivors are allowed to return home, their family and medical teams should monitor their health for another week.
Emergency medicine specialist Dr Sorarit Kiatfuengfoo said that the physical health of the survivors is good and except for rehabilitation through diet and exercise, there should be no problem for them to start their normal daily lives again.
However, Dr Ananya Sinrachatanant, a psychiatrist from the Royal College of Psychiatrists, said the mental health of all survivors remains fragile as they have just survived the traumatic event of being trapped for more than two weeks inside the flooded cave.
Ananya said that every person close to the 13 members of the football team has to support them with encouragement and understanding and ensure their smooth return to normal life.
She suggested that everyone should give them private space with their families after their return and refrain from asking them about what happened while they were stranded in the cave or blame them for their actions.
She asked the media and society to respect the privacy and rights of the survivors and make sure they do not distribute fake news or take part in social bullying.