Recently, new strains of the MRSA bacteria have been detected in the scariest of places: our communities. If this doesn’t seem worrisome at first read, consider this: strains of MRSA have long been identified in living and playing quarters where there are tight populations or high skin to skin contact ratios, but recently there have been increasing cases of MRSA being reported in relatively regular everyday conditions and to relatively healthy individuals and that’s enough to put anyone on edge.
Typically we think of MRSA outbreaks in locker rooms, sports facilities and on playing fields and courts. This makes perfect sense considering that an NFL physicians survey showed that there were 33 MRSA infections during the 2006-2008 playing seasons. By the end of 2012 alone, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers dealt with not one, but two serious cases of MRSA. We also saw cases occurring in high school sports settings in Pennsylvania, Indiana and Colorado.
That fact that athletes are at a higher risk of contracting MRSA comes as no surprise, but there are other common environments for MRSA to thrive and one of them is within prison systems. When you think about it, it’s almost as logical here as it is in athletics given the tight living quarters and the inability to fully regulate and monitor personal hygiene. In 2000, the Central Mississippi Correctional Facility reported that 59 of their 3000 inmates were infected with MRSA and three didn’t survive. Texas, California and Georgia prisons soon followed suit with similar situations. Just two years after the Mississippi outbreak, a Los Angeles County outbreak was especially frightening, affecting 928 inmates. The Center for Disease Control reports that between 1996-2002 alone, there were more than 11,000 inmates infected with MRSA in the US.
While it’s true that for the most part there haven’t really been any major MRSA outbreaks in schools with clusters of kids all having the infection simultaneously, there have been plenty of isolated cases or cases that have affected more than one or two students, but in the eyes of the school, didn’t constitute the label of an “outbreak.” The most common culprits for spreading MRSA in schools (other than on and off school sports grounds) are in bathrooms and locker rooms. It’s also common knowledge that school aged children (primary and secondary) may not have the most thorough hygiene habits in place yet and something as simple as touching an infected toilet handle or door knob can spread millions of germs and bacteria.
The bottom line is that no matter where MRSA is being detected or how it is being spread, while it’s not entirely preventable, you can certainly lessen your odds of becoming infected by making it a habit to practice the following tips:
– Never share personal items such as towels, razors or water bottles
– Avoid direct contact with food and drinks until you have thoroughly washed your hands
– Get into the habit of flushing toilets with a covered hand and be sure to cover your hand once more when you reach for the knob to exit the bathroom
– Avoid contact with anyone who you know who has any form of MRSA
– Wash sweaty clothing in the hottest water allowable as soon as possible and be sure to soak larger or harder to clean articles in a large container of Clear Gear Disinfectant Sports Spray
– If you’re a coach, be sure that you are using a safe, yet powerful disinfectant on all of your equipment and shared surfaces. Clear Gear Disinfectant Sports Spray is ideal for this since it’s water based, it tends to be gentler on clothing and surfaces than harsh chemicals
– If you are a parent of student or athlete, inquire about school or team’s cleaning and hygiene regimens. Nothing is more powerful than being informed
– Be sure that any open cuts, lesions or scrapes are clean and covered at all times
– Never allow anyone to touch a cut, lesion or scrape unless they are a safety or medical professional