When I first heard Tuesday that as many as 30 UW football players were experiencing flu-like symptoms that could be related to the H1N1 outbreak on the UW-Madison campus, my first reaction was to doubt the validity of the rumor.
With the resources a Division-I football program has to keep its players healthy you would think an outbreak that would affect such a large portion of the team could be avoided. But that thinking is naive considering how the H1N1 outbreak has affected large portions of the world this year and is now taking its toll on college campuses around the United States.
In fact, a locker room where over 100 football players spend a large portion of their day in close contact with one another is the perfect place for a flu-virus to spread. Within an hour of B5Q's first report Tuesday that the UW football team was battling the flu, UW officials confirmed the story, closed the media's access to the players and summoned both Bret Bielema and Dennis Helwig, the school's director of sports medicine to address the situation.
The outlook isn't very bright.
When offensive lineman Gabe Carimi told me after Saturday night's 28-20 win over Northern Illinois that he had been suffering from a nasty cold, there was no reason to think it had anything to do with the H1N1 virus. He wasn't the first athlete to play a football game with the flu.
But Carimi's symptoms did not subside. Sunday he was sent home from practice to get some rest. Apparently it helped because Bielema said Carimi was full-go at Tuesday's practice, according to the Wisconsin State Journal.
But Bielema added that Tuesday's practice load was lighter than usual. Players did not wear pads and practice ended early.
The good news is that if the ill-stricken players have indeed caught the H1N1 virus, it is completely treatable and it is entirely possible those players could be on the field Saturday against Fresno State.
The bad news is that this is a serious situation. Practices have already been affected and no one can control how many players will end up being stricken by the flu outbreak. The only way to prevent it now is to close practices and quarantine all the players. Obviously that isn't going to happen and the reality of the situation is that all of the players and coaches have already been exposed.
Heck, myself and anyone else who conducted interviews with the players Saturday night have been exposed.
The bottom line is that we might be in for the most unpredictable game week ever. Who knows who will practice and who will play? Who knows if any other players will contract the virus? Who knows if I will wake up sick tomorrow?
It's something we all need to think about because this is bigger than the Badgers. The outbreak is affecting everyone.