A conjunctivitis outbreak has caused major disruption to a semi-professional AFL competition in Queensland after dozens of players from two teams became infected.
Reports of the contagious eye infection emerged around 19 May when the South Cairns Cutters informed Cairns AFL that several of its players were displaying symptoms.
League authorities immediately postponed three games involving the club’s senior, reserve, and women’s teams. Then a few days later North Cairns reported about 20 of its players also had conjunctivitis.
Overall, it was estimated about 50 players at the two clubs became infected, with six games postponed in total. The league consulted with Queensland Health and AFL headquarters and requested infected players to self-isolate.
Cairns league president Mr Gary Young told the ABC that while the delay was disappointing, case numbers would likely have skyrocketed had games gone ahead.
“I wouldn’t have wanted to be responsible for that,” he said.
“We have to protect the health and welfare of our footy community because it spreads so easily. There’s been some heartache about how we go about this and that’s why we’ve sought advice. If you get on top of it, it passes fairly quickly.”
Young said the highly contagious nature of the condition made it hard to blame players for its spread.
“It could be as innocent as an [infected] child giving mum or dad a hug. Then they’ve come to footy training, shaken someone’s hand and it’s off and racing. It’s that contagious.”
In the latest announcement on 20 May, Young said appeared the outbreak had been contained to the two clubs.
“There are no known problems at junior level and these matches will be played unless it becomes unsafe. Please be vigilant and ask players and club personnel to take precautions,” he said.
“Norths and Souths have temporarily closed their senior clubs in an effort to contain and eliminate this spread as quickly as possible. This will assist in overcoming this problem, and we can hopefully get back to our normal scheduling and operations asap.”