Hundreds involved in Bay Area Tough Mudder race sick with possible staph, bacterial infections

J.R. Stone Image
Thursday, August 24, 2023
Bay Area Tough Mudder race participants complain of skin rash
A health advisory has been issued for participants of Tough Mudder race last weekend at Sonoma Raceway after hundreds say they developed skin rash.

SAN FRANCISCO (KGO) -- A health advisory has been issued for those who competed in the popular Tough Mudder obstacle race at Sonoma Raceway last weekend, a race that has participants crawling through mud and swimming in muddy water.

Many participants have contacted authorities saying they are dealing with possible staph or serious bacterial infections. The race is advertised as having the 'World's Best Obstacles' but complaints are coming in by the hundreds.

"I look like I have a severe rash on both sides," explains Nicole Villagran as she pulled up her shirt to show us what looks like pimples on her sides.

"Pretty much gone, you can't really see much of it but from the elbows up and knees down, I was just covered in these like pimply red blister type things," said Curtis Vollmar as he showed us his arms.

"I don't know if this is visible, I do have one mark on my arm," said Ashwin Chatwani.

In the video, you can see participants crawling in the mud, and waist to neck deep in water.

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Sonoma County Health Services has issued a health advisory for those who participated, saying they have received complaints of staph infections and serious bacterial infections from some who participated.

"There was a few times during the race where I could smell cow manure. I didn't go through all of the obstacles," said Villagran.

But Nicole Villagran still ended up with flu like symptoms and bumps all over her body.

"You wake up the next day and you're like, what is all this on my arm? Like what is going on here? And it's on both arms. That's where I was digging and doing army crawls and it's on the inside of my knees where I was pushing off of as well," said Villagran.

"We have an email chain to the Tough Mudder organization and there have been 350 people plus and counting that have been affected by the incidents so pretty severe," said Ashwin Chatwani.

We did reach out to Tough Mudder to get their side of what may have happened but have not heard back. They did send out an email saying they are taking all necessary steps to fully investigate the matter.

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"There was 13 of us total and 12 of us that did it got it," said Vollmar.

"We want answers, like what are you going to do to change this next time? What are you going to do to warn future runners? People are going to think it's okay and they just sweep it under the rug. That is not fair," said Villagran.

The health department now advising individuals who raced and may be affected to seek medical treatment.

Sonoma Department of Health Services issued this statement:

"The County of Sonoma Department of Health Services has issued a Health Advisory concerning multiple reports of participants in a Tough Mudder race at Sonoma Raceway on Aug. 19 and 20 having developed rash with fever, muscle pain, or nausea/vomiting occurring about 24 hours after the event. The Health Advisory is as follows:

"The Tough Mudder race involved extensive skin exposure to mud. Most affected persons have pustular rash, fever, myalgias, and headache. These symptoms could be indicative of a minor illness called Swimmers' Itch, but they can also indicate a Staph infection or other more serious bacterial infection such as Aeromonas. If you participated in the race and have a rash with fever or other symptoms, please see your medical provider or, if you do not have a medical provider, your local emergency department. You may wish to take this Advisory with you. Incubation period is 12 to 48 hours."

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In an email to participants Tough Mudder wrote:

"We are reaching out, as we are aware of some reports of individuals experiencing an adverse health reaction following participation in the Tough Mudder Sonoma event this past weekend.

We want to let you know, that the health and safety of the Tough Mudder community is always our top priority, and accordingly, we are actively taking all necessary steps to fully investigate the matter.

If you are experiencing any medical concerns, please consider seeing your doctor.

We thank you for understanding and patience as we continue to look into the matter.

Thank you for being a part of our community."

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