MRSA (methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus)
What is Staphylococcus aureus?
Staphylococcus aureus (also referred to as “staph”) is a bacterium or “germ” that is commonly found on the skin or in the nose of otherwise healthy people. When staph lives on the body without causing any problems, it is referred to as “colonization.” Up to 30% of the population may be colonized with staph at any given time.
Staph can cause problems, most commonly infections of the skin and soft tissue. Most infections caused by staph are relatively minor and include skin pimples or skin abscesses, also known as “boils.” Staph can cause more serious infections such as bone and joint infections or pneumonia.
In the last several years, our community has experienced an increase in the number of staph infections that are resistant to the usual antibiotics used to treat skin and soft tissue infections. These infections are caused by MRSA, or antibiotic resistant staph. MRSA traditionally has been a germ associated with hospitals but is now appearing in the community. Often called “community-acquired MRSA,” it causes skin infections and abscesses. Community-acquired MRSA appears to spread easily among family members, sports teams, in daycare centers, and in prisons or jails.
MRSA and Sports Teams
Several outbreaks of community-acquired MRSA have occurred among members of various sports teams at the high school, college, and professional level. Spread of MRSA among members of a sports team appears to be facilitated by close skin-to-skin contact that occurs with many sporting activities. Other factors that contribute to the spread of MRSA include frequent skin injury that occurs with some sporting activities, failure to cover wounds adequately, frequent sharing of sports equipment and towels, and lack of access to showers and antibacterial soap.
Treatment of MRSA
If your child or family member is experiencing an infection with MRSA, it is important to seek care by a trained healthcare provider. Treatment of infections caused by MRSA may require:
- surgical treatment to remove pus
- specialized wound care
- antibiotics specifically for MRSA
Prevention of MRSA
Like most germs, MRSA can be spread from person to person both on the hands and on shared objects like towels. If a member of your family is infected with MRSA (and as a general good practice), be sure to wash hands frequently or use hand sanitizer. All wounds should be kept covered, unless directed otherwise by a healthcare provider. All prescribed medications and wound care regimens should be fully completed to treat this infection.
Prevention of MRSA for Sports Teams
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention suggests measures for preventing MRSA infection among members of sports teams. These include:
- adequately covering wounds and considering exclusions of players with wounds that cannot be adequately covered until wound healing has occurred
- practicing and encouraging good hygiene, including showering with soap and hot water after all practices and competitions
- avoiding sharing towels and personal items such as clothing or equipment
- ensuring all shared equipment is routinely cleaned with an antimicrobial cleaning solution
- practicing proper first aid of skin wounds and monitoring for wound infections
- encouraging players to report all skin lesions to the team trainer or coach
- seeking immediate medical attention for any serious or potentially infected skin wound
Some families or individuals have recurrent episodes of MRSA infection. If this is a problem for your family, it may be necessary to attempt to remove this germ from the skin. Ask your healthcare provider about referral to the Pediatric Infectious Diseases MRSA Clinic at St. Louis Children’s Hospital or call 314.454.KIDS (5437).