Staph Infections

 

Community acquired methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) infections are becoming more common.  As a new sports season unfolds, athletes, especially those involved in high-contact sports, can become infected with this bacteria.

 

Staphylococcus aureus, often referred to simply as "staph", is a bacteria commonly found on the skin and in the nares of healthy people.  According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, S. aureus colonizes the nostrils of approximately 30% of the population without causing disease; approximately 1% is colonized with CA-MRSA.  CA-MRSA is resistant to an antibiotic called methicillin and unfortunately, also more aggressive than other "staph".

 

S, aureus is transmitted from infected skin lesions or colonized nasal discharge.  Transmission occurs from one person to another via direct physical contact or indirectly through contaminated objects, such as towels, bar soaps, wound dressings, hands, clothes or sports equipment. As most athletes are in frequent physical contact with others during both training and competition, they represent an "at risk" group for this disease.

 

When S. aureus gains entry into the body through a break in the skin, the infection produced is usually minor.  In healthy people, S. aureus typically produces superficial skin lesions, such as "pimples" and boils.  Lesions are often mistaken for spider bites.  They may become red, swollen, and painful, forming abscesses or cellulites.  When CA-MRSA gains entry, infections are more likely to occur and are more severe.  Professional medical care may be required for proper treatment, including drainage of pus and prescription of antibiotic therapy, if needed.

 

High contact sports inevitably bring about scrapes, cuts and bruises in addition to potential for more serious sports-related injuries.  With the emergence of CA-MRSA, the term "staph infection" in sports has changed significantly.  While previous staph infections were grouped with other common athletic nuisances, like athlete's foot and jock itch, CA-MRSA infections have a higher potential of leading to team outbreaks with possibly debilitating infections if not managed properly.  The common scrape or cut must now receive prompt wound care to avoid potential infection.

 

As CA_MRSA infections become more common among athletes, please do your part to prevent its spread by promoting awareness and ensuring the below guidelines are practiced in your athletic department.  When it comes to "athletically acquired" CA-MRSA, a good offense is the best defense!

 

GUIDELINES TO PREVENT THE SPREAD OF MRSA AROUND ATHLETES INVOLVED IN CONTACT SPORTS:

 

  • Cover all wounds and change bandages frequently to assure containment of any drainage. If a wound cannot be covered adequately, consider excluding players with potentially infectious skin lesions from practice or competitions until the lesions are healed or can be covered adequately.
  • Encourage good hygiene, including showering and washing with soap after all practices and competitions.
  • Ensure availability of adequate soap and hot water.
  • Encourage frequent washing of practice and game uniforms.  Be sure to dry these articles of clothing on the hottest possible cycle to kill the bacteria.
  • Discourage sharing of towels and personal items, such as clothing or equipment.
  • Establish routine cleaning schedules for shared equipment, including mats, with a bleach water solution of 1:10.
  • Train athletes and coaches in first aid for wounds and recognition of wounds that are potentially infected.
  • Encourage athletes to report skin lesions to coaches and encourage coaches to assess athletes regularly for skin infections.
  • Seek medical attention if a wound does not heal properly or appears to be infected.  If prescribed an antibiotic, take all of the doses, even if the infection appears to be getting better.  DO NOT SHARE antibiotics with others or save unfinished antibiotics to use at another time.

 

For additional information you can go to www.adph.org/epi.