A San Francisco Bay Area student-athlete who says he contracted a highly contagious form of herpes during a wrestling match is asking the state to postpone this weekend's championship meet until officials can determine how many other athletes may have been exposed.
Seventeen-year-old Blake Flovin, of Sunnyvale, has herpes gladiatorum, commonly referred to as "mat herpes," one of the most infectious forms of the disease. It's spread by skin-to-skin contact and saliva and remains in the system for life.
Flovin, a wrestler at Archbishop Mitty High School in San Jose, believes he contracted the virus during a recent meet in San Jose. He said the diagnosis ended his wrestling career.
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"I'm never gonna wrestle again," he said.
Flovin worries more student-athletes will become infected, so he and his parents sent a letter to the California Interscholastic Federation asking leaders to postpone the state championships in Bakersfield this Friday, where hundreds will compete.
"I don't want other kids to get this," Flovin said. "It's not worth it to put the wrestlers at risk when this is totally preventable."
The family has contacted the public health department about the issue, but herpes is not on the state list of communicable diseases that must be reported.
Flovin said the problem stems from students who wrestle while infected and try to hide their diagnoses so they can compete.
"I've definitely seen kids with makeup on different sores or whatnot, trying to hide it from the refs when they do the skin check," Flovin said.
Flovin's mother, Rena, said she simply wants parents to know the risks, something she never understood.
"As a parent, I would want to know about it, and we were never notified," she said. "I'm hoping that things change. The protocols change, because it's a livelong disease that our son's got to deal with now."
A recent nationwide study found wrestlers to have the highest number of skin infections among high school athletes. The study, published earlier this month in the Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology, determined 73.6 percent of skin infections occurred during wrestling.
The family alerted coaches to Flovin's diagnosis and is hoping South Bay schools will consider establishing better protocols to stop the spread of infectious diseases.
For now, Flovin is focusing on graduating and playing football in college, but he admits herpes has forever changed his life.
Attempts to reach the California Interscholastic Federation for comment on were unsuccessful.