Methicillin-Resistant Staphylococcus Common in Schools Athletic Programs

In hospitals, Staph Infections, which are caused by the Staphylococcus Aureu bacterium, have consistently been one of the biggest threats to the health of patients recovering from an injury or operation.

Traditionally, these types of infections have been most common in hospitals and other health care facilities, but increasingly staph infections are becoming more common in other areas, especially sports related activities and programs.

Over the last ten years, the number of Methicillin-Resistant Staphylococcus Aureus infections has doubled, with this type of staph infection being resistant to Methicillin, which is an antibiotic in the penicillin family. Methicillin-Resistant Staphylococcus Aureus no longer reacts to the traditional Methicillin treatment, making it much more difficult to cure and much more dangerous to those who are infected with the disease.

In 1974, less than 3% of staph infections were Methicillin resistant, by the mid-nineties, this figure had jumped to nearly 25% and today, more than 63% of all staph infections are Methicillin resistant.

In a recent study, the increase in the prevalence of Methicillin-Resistant Staphylococcus Aureus bacterium in non-health care settings, was found to be growing at an alarming rate, with most of the athletic centers and programs checked having some levels of the staph infection.

9 different schools were checked for the bacterium during the study, with only one school showing no signs of the infection on the surfaces tested. On the other side of the spectrum, the bacterium was found on around 80% of the areas tested at another school.

The staph infection was found on many surfaces, but consistently, the water cooler and treatment or taping tables had the highest levels of this strain of staphylococcus. The handles of the sink and showers were also havens for this bacterium, with trainers rooms, heat units, ice machines, and biohazard containers also showing signs of the infection.

There are several reasons there is such a high prevalence of Methicillin-Resistant Staphylococcus Aureus, but part of it can be traced back to the health care industry, as those who play sports are more likely to visit a doctor's office or hospital, where the bacterium is very common. From there, they transmit the bacterium back to the sports complex, transferring it to places like sink handles or door knobs.

Also, since often time the locker room environment fosters a more communal attitude to hygiene, with players sharing clothes, equipment, and even razors, it is easy to see how the bacterium can spread so easily and cause an increase in the number of Methicillin-Resistant Staph Infections.

This study, did not however, focus on how to fix the problem, but only on identifying the prevalence of the bacterium.

Likely, more attention to hygiene, such as by more frequent cleaning of the locker room area and equipment, as well as washing the hands more frequently would likely address this issue. It is important to note, however, that even at a hospital where much more attention is paid towards personal hygiene and janitorial aspects, staph infections are still found on virtually all surfaces.

What Are Staph Infections

Staph Infections are caused by the Staphylococcus Aureu bacterium, and can result in a number of complications, including skin infections and food poisoning. Not only can staph infections occur in humans, but animals are also susceptible, with cows being prone to developing these types of infections..

Unlike many other types of bacterium, Staphylococcus is quite resilient and can survive on dry areas, which is one reason it is so prevalent in hospitals and other health care facilities.

Methicillin-Resistant Staphylococcus Aureus is a strain of the Staphylococcus bacterium that is not affected by Methicillin, which is a antibiotic related to penicillin that has been traditionally used to treat staph infections.

Staphylococcus was first discovered over 100 years ago in Scotland, by a surgeon and today around 1/2 million hospital patients in America develop the disease each year. The most common way to spread the disease is through physical contact, which is why it is so important to wash ones hands whenever going to a hospital, as the Staphylococcus bacterium can be found on virtually all surfaces in a hospital.

Study By: Kyle Montgomery, LAT, ATC; Timothy J. Ryan, PhD, CIH, CSP; Andrew Krause, PhD, LAT, ATC and Chad Starkey, PhD, LAT, ATC

Source: Journal of Environmental Health; Jan2010, Vol. 72 Issue 6, p8-11

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