Andrew Bradley of Lewes, Del., James Harris of Cedar Brook, N.J., and Alexander Binder of Baltimore, Md., all age 22, filed a civil suit in Philadelphia County Court of Common Pleas. Harris is finishing his final semester, and Bradley and Binder have graduated.
Defendants include York College; Nate Cooke, head athletic trainer; Sean Sullivan, assistant dean of athletics and recreation; and Thomas Kessler, wrestling coach.
The plaintiffs allege that in October 2006, another wrestler infected them with Herpes simplex 1. According to court documents, he was held out of practice for about three days and then was allowed by the athletic training staff and the coaches to return to full-contact practice. Cooke covered the wrestler's skin lesions with bandages, according to the documents.
"Wrapping up a condition is not an acceptable way to address it," said attorney David Avedissian, representing the plaintiffs. "You're exposing the other teammates to that condition."
The defendants deferred comment to the college's communications office.
"The college is aware of the allegations. We believe them to be without foundation," said spokeswoman Alicia Brumbach, who declined further comment.
Spreading herpes: According to court documents, by November, Bradley developed herpes symptoms, including flu-like symptoms -- herpes and flu can have similar symptoms -- and a rash on his left eye. He was soon diagnosed with Herpes simplex 1. Within a week, Harris developed flu-like symptoms, and he also tested positive for herpes, according to court documents.
In December 2006, Binder, who earlier in the wrestling season tested negative for herpes, developed a rash on his neck and was now infected with herpes, according to court documents.
Avedissian, of Haddonfield, N.J., said his clients have been permanently affected by the disease, which does not currently have a cure.
"The virus is recurring, so you never get rid of it," Avedissian said.
Herpes simplex 1, sometimes called "wrestler's herpes" or herpes gladiatorum, can be mild, including skin lesions and rashes. But in rare cases, it can lead to ocular herpes, which can cause blindness, or herpes encephalitis, which can be deadly. The defendants seek in excess of $50,000 in damages, and allege the college's actions caused them "anguish and humiliation" for an indefinite amount of time.
NCAA violation: Avedissian said the case is a violation of NCAA rules regarding student-athletes. He cited an NCAA rule stating wrestlers are not permitted to cover up lesions and continue practicing, and must undergo 120 hours of antiviral treatment before being allowed to participate.
Wrestlers with herpes were supplied with Valtrex, a herpes medication, by college health officials, Avedissian said, but not until several members were infected. Each affected wrestler was only held out of activities for three days, he said.
"I think it was swept under the carpet," Avedissian said. None of the plaintiffs had herpes before October 2006, he said. "The whole thing could have been avoided."
FYI:There are two forms of Herpes simplex: Type 1, and type 2, according to herpes.com. The viral infections can cause cold sores, fever blisters, skin lesions and genital sores, and are spread through direct contact with affected areas, often through sexual activity.
A different Herpes virus, Herpes zoster, causes chicken pox and shingles.
At least one in five adults in the United States has genital herpes.
Herpes symptoms usually develop within two to 20 days after contact with the virus.
Flu-like symptoms are common.
People diagnosed with herpes can expect to have four or five outbreaks within a year.
Medication can minimize outbreaks but not eliminate them.
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