MRSA in the Gym
(Methicillin-Resistant Staphylococcus aureus)
MRSA (Methicillin-Resistant Staphylococcus aureus) in the Gym
Louis M. Profeta MD FACEP
Dpt. Emergency Medicine St. Vincent Hospital and Health Services
Lately there has been a lot of coverage in the news and other media outlets about a new bacteria that seems to be invading our school, gyms, hospitals and other health care facilities. In actuality, none of this is new. As health care providers we have been battling MRSA for years and have been well aware of its infectivity. The truth is we are partly to blame for its existence. MRSA is a highly drug-resistant strain of Staphlococcus bacteria that causes a variety of skin lesions from boils and pustules, to wound infections, blood poisoning and even death. It is a product of drug resistance through the over use of antibiotics for viral infections and is now one of the major reasons why doctors are much less likely to write prescriptions for simple sore throats, bronchitis and other classic viral illnesses.
It is typically a consequence of poor hygiene, but its presence throughout the community, finds that is now nearly everywhere. It often takes root in small scratches, wounds, abrasions or cracks in the skin so small they may not even be noticed. But once in the bacteria takes hold it causes a variety of skin infections that often require surgical drainage in the ER. In addition, because the organism is resistant to most classic antibiotics it is very hard to eradicate and in many instances a person must receive multiple doses of intravenous antibiotics to fight the infection. It may sound absolutely horrible, but there is some good news.
Most cases of MRSA can be prevented by a combination of good hygiene, and attention to the behaviors that permit the spread of this organism. The Center for Disease Control (CDC) has a comprehensive guide for the prevention of transmission of MRSA in your school or gym. You can review these at cdc.gov. There is also a link provided so you may obtain information from the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) on what cleaners may be used on your equipment to cut down on the spread of this bacteria. But for the time being, a few simple precautions will help prevent the spread of this disease in your gym or school. (Adopted from the CDC guidelines at cdc.gov)
You can protect yourself by:
While the presence of a case of MRSA may spark concern, rest assured most cases are readily treatable and the spread to others can be prevented without closure of the facility. MRSA is here to stay. But with the proper hygiene, maintaining a clean workout environment, and the promotion of safe hand washing practices most cases can be prevented and make for a more enjoyable school and gym experience for everyone.
Once again for more information on MRSA and how to prevent it spread, visit the Center for Disease Control at www.cdc.gov