One day after playing a World Cup qualifier for the United States against Mexico in Mexico City, Galaxy forward Landon Donovan said Thursday he tested positive for the H1N1 flu virus, commonly known as swine flu.
Donovan is believed to have contracted the virus from two Galaxy staff members who came down with it during last weekend’s Galaxy game against the New England Revolution in Foxborough, Mass., said Bruce Arena, Galaxy coach and general manager.
Donovan, in an interview from his Manhattan Beach home Thursday evening, said he had been feeling ill since joining the U.S. national soccer team in Florida on Sunday.
“Sunday night when I got into Miami I started feeling a little congestion and just not feeling great, but it wasn’t terrible,” he said. “I didn’t think too much of it. I thought maybe it was just changing climate, the heat and humidity and all that.
“Monday, it got a little bit worse. I was coughing a little. Tuesday [when the U.S. team traveled to Mexico City] I was coughing a little, and when I woke up Wednesday I felt a little tired, but I just assumed it was the altitude.”
Donovan said he had not considered pulling out of the game against Mexico. “I didn’t assume there was anything really that wrong,” he said.
Donovan played the full 90 minutes Wednesday in the U.S. team’s 2-1 loss at Azteca Stadium and afterward met briefly with reporters.
He made no mention of the illness at that time but did appear to have hit a wall in the game. For the first 20 minutes he was as lively as he has been all season and provided the pass that led to Charlie Davies’ goal for the U.S. But Donovan said he had felt awful in the match.
“During the game, I just can’t remember the last time I felt that way,” he said. “It felt strange to be out there. I kind of wrote it off and said it’s just the altitude and the smog. I got home last night and when I woke up this morning I was just on fire so I took a temperature and had a 100.7 fever and figured something was going on. So I went to the doctor and sure enough.
“Now it’s turned a little worse. Now it’s a full-blown flu. All afternoon I’ve just had really bad chills and a bad fever and a lot” of congestion.
The Galaxy is scheduled to play the Seattle Sounders on Saturday at the Home Depot Center and it appears very unlikely that Donovan will play.
However, Arena on Thursday evening sought to allay any fears. “My understanding is that this is a mild strain of a flu, which, when you do contract it, you have a period of 48 hours where it could be infectious to others,” he said.
“Landon is not infectious. He has a slight strain of the flu and he’s at the tail end of it. There’s no need for alarm. As usual, what we’ve read is pretty distorted.
“Could it have impacted him a little in the game on Wednesday? Sure. On the whole I thought his performance was better than the majority, so I don’t think the flu scare is anything that we really need to be concerned about. I’m sure he’s going to be fine real soon.”
Arena said he had not talked to Donovan on Thursday but would do so today.
“My suspicions are that since we’ve had a couple of people within the Galaxy office who have had [the flu], that that’s where he got it,” Arena said, referring to a team administrator and chiropractor.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta, there have been more than 40,000 laboratory-confirmed cases of the virus in the U.S. and experts believe that more than 1 million Americans have been infected.
The story first broke Thursday when Sports Illustrated reporter Grant Wahl, who wrote the recent book that caused a spat between Donovan and Galaxy teammate David Beckham, called to talk to Donovan about Wednesday’s game and learned he had the H1N1 flu.
Donovan said he doubted he would play Saturday. “We’ll see. It may be a stretch,” he said.
Arena said the Galaxy is monitoring other players and personnel to see whether they show any flu symptoms and said he would make a decision later about whether Donovan is available to play Saturday.
“We’ll see how he is” today, Arena said.