How Chicken Pox Infection Could Affect Kansas City Royal Players

Adults can face worse complications when infected with chicken pox.

ByABC News
September 2, 2015, 12:26 PM
Two Kansas City Royals players have come down with a case of the chicken pox.
Two Kansas City Royals players have come down with a case of the chicken pox.
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— -- The Kansas City Royals found an unlikely, and far more insidious, enemy this week than their scheduled opponent the Detroit Tigers when two players came down with chicken pox.

The players Kelvin Herrera and Alex Rios are expected sit out for a few weeks as they recover from the nasty virus that can lead to high fevers and itchy blisters. While chicken pox is often thought of as a childhood disease, for Herrera and Rios, their age might actually work against them as they battle through the virus.

Dr. William Schaffner, an infectious disease expert from Vanderbilt University Medical School, said adults can face worse complications from chicken pox.

“The complications are pneumonia and occasionally liver problems,” explained Schaffner. “They occur more commonly in adults.”

He explained that the biggest danger will be to other players who were not vaccinated to the virus or who had not had the illness as a child.

Schaffner said doctors can use antivirals on the infected, but that it usually only shortens the duration of symptoms by about one day.

“If you can get the [shot] shortly after the exposure then the vaccine can sometimes prevent the infection from occurring,” said Schaffner who conceded, “Often folks don’t realize they’ve been exposed until it’s too late.”

Schaffner said acute symptoms including high fever, tiredness, loss of appetite and headache usually persist for about five days, but that the telltale blisters can linger for about two weeks.

Team officials have been scrambling to ensure that other players or family members were vaccinated if they came into contact with the players.

"My initial reaction was, 'It's 2015.' I was surprised," Royals general manager Dayton Moore told the Associated Press. "I'm sure it's more common than I'm aware of as far as adults getting chickenpox."

While in the U.S. vaccinations for chicken pox are have been common among children since around 1995, in other parts of the world, including Latin America, vaccinations are far less available.

Additionally those born before 1995 and did not catch the virus naturally may not have been inoculated when they went to the doctor as an adult.

Before the introduction of the chicken pox vaccine approximately 4 million people were sickened by the virus every year and about 100 to 150 died as a result, according to the CDC.

The Associated Press contributed to this story.