Sonoma County health officials are investigating after roughly two dozen people reported a bacterial infection on their skin following the Tough Mudder Sonoma County challenge over the weekend.
The Tough Mudder challenge was held at the Sonoma Raceway on Aug. 19 and 20. People who crawled through the mud and water, and maneuvered under obstacles like a barbed wire fence, posted on social media that they came down with an infection after the event. People said they have a red rash with puss, a fever, and body aches.
"Anywhere on my body that touched the ground had red spots," Chris Palakos, a participant, said.
Sonoma County's interim health officer Dr. Karen Smith told KTVU that at least 22 people contacted the agency to report rashes. Smith said they’re operating under the assumption people likely contracted a bacterial infection called aeromonas, which is a bacterium that lives in water and is contracted through open wounds. It is not contagious.
"We want to be sure to let people know… if you attended this event, and you have a rash, fever, aches, we want you to go see your doctor," she said.
Smith said one patient went to see an infectious disease specialist and had a sample test positive for aeromonas bacteria. Doctors may initially misdiagnose the rash for a staph infection or swimmer’s itch. Participants are advised to have their physician take a culture sample and have it sent to a lab for confirmation.
"We want doctors to have the right information, so they know which things to consider, staph being one of them," she said. "But what we don’t want to happen, because it looks like staph, we don’t want them to just treat for staph and find out it’s something else."
Mudders shared photos of their rashes with KTVU. In some cases, their arms and legs are covered with what look like puss-filled pimples or bug bites.
Meghan Rowe of Butte County in Northern California said she was in trouble when she woke up Monday after doing the 10K race.
Sonoma County officials are investigating multiple cases of possible infections among runners who competed in a recent Tough Mudder event at the Sonoma Raceway.
"It was the next morning and I started noticing I had breakouts on my stomach," said Rowe, adding that her friend had a rash too. "I had a headache. I had chills and really bad body aches."
Although only 22 people contacted the Sonoma County Health Department as of Wednesday, the agency said it believes many more people may be sick.
"I've heard of at least 350 [people] on an email thread I got myself involved in," Palakos said.
KTVU obtained a copy of an email sent to Tough Mudder participants that said they are aware of some people experiencing "an adverse health reaction" and that they are investigating. Tough Mudder did not respond to KTVU’s request for comment.
"They knew about it last year, why couldn't they say something," Rowe said.
"I've heard it’s been a known problem for some time which is even more disappointing because I'd love to see Tough Mudder actively deal with the issue if it's a known problem," Palakos added.