The approaching school year means student athletes will be taking to fields and courts preparing for competition. One concern for people who have direct physical contact with others on a regular basis is MRSA, Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus, a bacterium that causes infections, especially of the skin and soft tissue, which are treatable with antibiotics and sometimes require drainage.
Staph is a common cause of infection in the United States, but MRSA is resistant to common antibiotics with it being referred to as a “super bug.” MRSA is spread through contact either by touching a person who is carrying it or an object. As much as 2-3% of the population carries MRSA but are not infected. Community-associated MRSA has been documented in groups that are in close contact with each other, like athletes. Seek medical attention if there are signs of infection including swelling, redness, warmth and pain where there is a sore or abrasion. Early identification and treatment will keep the infection from becoming severe and spreading.
“The majority of MRSA infections are relatively mild and easily dealt with. There are several antibiotic options and more in development. It is uncommon to experience severe infections caused by MRSA,” Dr. Mark Dowell of Rocky Mountain Infectious Disease said. “However, if someone is very ill with fever, chills, confusion, etc., associated with an obvious skin infection, seek immediate evaluation. Initiation of early, aggressive treatment may well avoid dangerous complications.”
Athletes and others who have close physical contact with people should practice good hygiene, including hand washing and showering after exercise. Towels and uniforms should be washed after each use and not shared. Wounds should be cleaned and covered to help prevent infection.