|What you need to know about Staph. infections: Identification, information, and prevention.
By: Bruce A. Sherman, Ph.D.
Who’s at risk: Athletes and facilities1?
• Athletic training centers, e.g., conditioning centers, locker rooms—at the high school, university and professional levels
• “Close contact” sports participants, e.g., football, soccer, basketball, wrestling
• Military training centers; military recruits
• Prison facilities; prisoners
Simple facts about staph.
• 25-30% of the population is colonized* with staph. Less than 1% is colonized with MRSA.2 [*Colonized is defined as “bacteria are present, but not causing an infection or ill effects.]
• Staph. is an opportunistic” bacteria, meaning that it can only enter the body through direct contact with cuts or wounds. Staph. (infections) often cause only minor skin problems in healthy people.3 Staph. cannot be spread through the air.4
• Someone who is colonized with staph. can pass the germ to others through contact with a cut or wound.
• Staph. grows rapidly in warm, moist environments, but could potentially live on surfaces, like the grips and handles, of exercise machines.5
• To date, there is no reports/awareness of MRSA originating in health clubs, according to representatives from the Centers for Disease Control, and the International Health, Racquet & Sportsclub Association.5,6
Are you (is your facility) at risk?
• Do you have exercise equipment? If you have exercise equipment, cardio. and/or strength, bacteria and germs can be spread from a healthy person to a susceptible person by contact with an affected surface, regardless of sweatiness/wetness.
• Do you monitor for (allow) exercisers with visible open sores, abrasions, turf burns, boils, etc.? Exercises with open “wounds” are at risk for “opportunistic” infections.
• Do you have a system/protocol for regular, user-to-user, cleaning/sanitizing of exercise equipment surfaces? If not, your facility is at risk.
Prevention and intervention
• Regular, thorough cleaning of all equipment, especially all body contact surfaces.
• Member/exerciser participation cleaning: Make it as easy and convenient as possible for each exerciser to clean each piece of equipment before and/or after each use. Provide easy access to high quality disinfectant equipment cleaning solutions in spray bottles and wiping towels—either cloth or paper. One step, or one arm’s length away convenience/accessibility is preferable.
• Understand the strengths and limitations of your cleaning solution and cleaning system. Removing germs and bacteria, physically, by wiping surfaces with a quality cleaning solution is a very good preventive/reactive cleaning “best practice.”
• Provide a convenient means for instant hand sanitizing, before, during, and after workouts! Clean hands are directly related to a decreased risk of germ transmission. Hand cleaning by gel and/or foaming hand sanitizers is generally more effective (at germ killing) than hand washing—we’re not a very “effective” hand washing society.7
• Post signage reminding members/exercisers to pitch-in. A safe workout environment must be a combined effort between the facilities staff and members.
• With basically healthy members/exercisers the risk of germ transmission in the non-athletic (i.e., non-contact sport) fitness (training) facility setting is low.
• Athletes and athletic training facilities must be on higher alert for germ transmission due to the higher incidence of body contact and body/skin abrasions.
• Educate all exercisers and facility staff regarding the dangers of exercising with open wounds, abrasions, and skin lesions.
• Establish preventive cleaning practices for exercise equipment. Provide easy access to hand sanitizing products. Remember…convenience leads to compliance.
Create the best possible workout environment for your exercisers. Spread fitness, not germs!
1Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, “Questions and Answers About MRSA in Schools,” 2007.
2Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, “Community-Associated MRSA Info.for the Public,” 2005.
3Mayo Clinic, “MRSA Infection,” 2007.
4Meccklenburg County Health Dep’t., “Let’s Talk About…C-A MRSA,” 2007.
5New York Times, “Staph at the Gym? Not if You’re Careful,” 2007.
6Club Industry’s Fitness Business Pro, “Clean Up,” 2006.
7National Public Radio, Dr. Carlene Muto, Univ. of Pittsburgh Medical Ctr., 2007.