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Dodgers recount tales of virus outbreak

MLB.com @kengurnick

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- Survivors of the Dodgers' suspected norovirus outbreak have returned to work with harrowing tales of late-night visits to hospitals and urgent-care centers, of trainers' phones blowing up with panicked text messages, an All-Star shortstop fearing a re-injury and a pitching coach whose carefully plotted spring schedule was totally scrambled.

"I think it was the sickest I've been in my life for 36 hours," said Ross Stripling, who had to be scratched from his scheduled start on Thursday.

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SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- Survivors of the Dodgers' suspected norovirus outbreak have returned to work with harrowing tales of late-night visits to hospitals and urgent-care centers, of trainers' phones blowing up with panicked text messages, an All-Star shortstop fearing a re-injury and a pitching coach whose carefully plotted spring schedule was totally scrambled.

"I think it was the sickest I've been in my life for 36 hours," said Ross Stripling, who had to be scratched from his scheduled start on Thursday.

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The illness struck with immediate and unrelenting symptoms players had never before experienced. During Tuesday's game, lethargy set in, sometimes with a dull headache. One player said he drank three Red Bulls during the game to snap out of it.

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By the time players made it to their spring homes Tuesday night, they were blindsided by extreme chills and sweats, severe joint pain, nausea, diarrhea and dizziness that lasted through Wednesday and into Thursday.

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"Many times, I was wishing I was dead. I was in so much pain," said Kiké Hernandez.

Corey Seager not only got sick, but back pain triggered a panic thought that he had somehow suffered a relapse of the sprained back that sidelined him during last October's National League Championship Series.

"It was bad, really bad," said Seager, who started the week with unrelated food poisoning. "It was couldn't-move-for-two-days bad. My neck and back, it felt like I messed my back up again. That's what I thought, 'Oh my God, I messed myself up again.' I was panicking, like, 'There's no way that was happening.' When I found out what it was, it was a bit of relief, I'm not going to lie. That was just a lot of pain."

Norovirus is a highly contagious stomach bug often found in crowded public spaces like cruise ships and cafeterias. It has no specific treatment and generally requires 72 hours to run its course. With 22 of the 26 stricken Dodger players and coaches having used the hot or cold tubs in the preceding days, that's the assumed but unconfirmed origin. The entire complex has been scrubbed by a hazmat team.

Before the number of victims was known, the initial diagnosis was influenza, but Tamiflu provided no relief. Sleep was impossible. Some players sprawled on the floor seeking comfort from sweat-soaked bed sheets. Dehydration became a secondary issue and several players received IVs. Rob Segedin and Zach Neal each lost eight pounds.

Does the epidemic put the Dodgers at a disadvantage compared to 29 clubs that did not have a norovirus outbreak?

"It was early enough, so it probably didn't," said Stripling. "It could have. But you wonder what would have happened if it was during the season and everybody got sick? Forfeit the game?"

Meanwhile, will players think twice before jumping back into the hot tub?

"I got in there today," said Logan Forsythe. "It's part of my routine. I need to get in there. The thought's in the back of your mind, but I've got to do it."

Ken Gurnick has covered the Dodgers for MLB.com since 2001. Listen to his podcast.

Los Angeles Dodgers, Corey Seager, Ross Stripling