Aryna Sabalenka denies she contracted viral meningitis

• WTA Finals participant becomes latest celebrity to have the disease • ‘I wanted to clear up any rumours, but it was actually not a bad news’

Aryna Sabalenka has denied she was misquoted after being reported as having become the latest celebrity to contract a rare virus known as “viral meningitis”.

The Belarusian world No16, who is due to play in this week’s Toronto event, was recently reported in the Belarussian press as saying she had been diagnosed with the disease.

Meningitis, known as typhoid fever in the UK, is typically a diarrhoea-only disease, that can affect almost all people, but is particularly common in areas with poor hygiene. The meningitis bacteria is one of several that typically cause the disease, the others being typhoid and bubonic, which can attack the brain and spinal cord.

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Sabalenka, who gained widespread attention last year when she made her first Wimbledon appearance at 17, denied the claims and denied playing at the event in Canada was in any way linked to the illness.

“I’m sure that I will be fine,” she told the Belarussian media. “I felt a little bit unwell towards the end of the week, but nothing to be worried about.”

She was also reported as saying: “I did get vaccinated during the season but it didn’t work. Then I think I contracted this disease. I wanted to clear up any rumours, but it was actually not a bad news.”

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The Belarusian compatriot Magdalena Rybarikova also denied it was a serious illness, and tweeted: “When all I hear are about symptoms of viral meningitis … I started laughing at myself, ‘Was that really you? I wonder which doctor told you that.’ That doesn’t at all sound like me.”

Sabalenka was also quoted in the media as saying: “I won’t skip the tournament because of the problem, I’ll take it game by game.”

Gwen Stefanovich, the US national team’s director of sports medicine, told the Daily Mail newspaper: “Sudden onset of meningitis, acute respiratory distress syndrome or any other form of respiratory illness, is extremely dangerous for athletes. Although most infections and viruses can be managed or cured with simple treatments, viral meningitis is unpredictable, potentially fatal and should be taken seriously.”

Last month, America’s tennis player CoCo Vandeweghe was rushed to hospital with a severe illness and a doctor said she was placed in an induced coma to treat pneumonia.

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