CDC Warns Of MRSA In Athletes
Methicillin-resistant Staph aureus (MRSA) infections have become increasingly prevalent in recent years in various populations. Over the past year and a half, there have been outbreaks of MRSA on athletic teams, prompting a recent report by the Centers For Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) that warned competitive athletes of the potential for infection.
In an August edition of the Mortality and Morbidity Weekly Report (MMWR), the CDC noted an MRSA outbreak on a Colorado fencing team that occurred in February. One month before that, two Indiana high school wrestlers suffered the infection. The MMWR report added that two college football players in Los Angeles were hospitalized with MRSA infections in September 2002. More recently, USA Today reported that eight members of a Wisconsin high school football team recently became infected with MRSA, one of whom was hospitalized for 16 days.
The CDC points to several potential reasons for the transmission of S. aureus in the athletes. It notes the abrasions that competitive athletes develop may be a point of entry for pathogens and adds that protective clothing may be abrasive in certain sports. Staph aureus can also be transmitted directly between athletes and the CDC notes athletes like the fencers may share protective clothing and equipment, which could cause the spread of infection.
Although David G. Armstrong, DPM, has not seen many MRSA infections in athletes, he recalls one case of a high school athlete, an NCAA Division 1 1,500 meter track prospect. The runner presented with an ingrown toenail and concomitant streaking up his leg. After doing a partial nail avulsion, Dr. Armstrong took a culture from the resulting pus, which grew out as MRSA.
Dr. Armstrong first started the athlete on an oral first-generation cephalosporin. However, he says it didn’t have coverage against that strain, ultimately delaying coverage by a few days. Adding an IV line and three days of vancomycin at home resolved the boy’s infection, notes Dr. Armstrong, the Director of Research and Education in the Department of Surgery, Podiatry Section of the Southern Arizona Veterans Affairs Medical Center in Tuscon, Ariz.
“What he had going for him was his good health and young age,” says Dr. Armstrong, a member of the Board of Directors of the American Diabetes Association. “While I don’t know if he ultimately got his scholarship, I do know that it could have seriously been threatened if this hadn’t been jumped on aggressively.”
How Can Athletes Prevent MRSA Infections?
The CDC advised athletes and coaches in prevention measures. Among these were good hand hygiene and showering after athletic events; using bandages for cuts and abrasions; washing towels, clothing and athletic equipment; and consulting a healthcare provider if wounds seem infected or do not heal.
“I don't know that you can protect against it,” says Patrick DeHeer, DPM. “If a break in the skin barrier occurs, proper cleansing of the wound and professional examination would be the most important aspects.”
Dr. DeHeer, a team podiatrist for the Indiana Pacers and the Indiana Fever, says one doesn’t see that many infections in athletes, especially when it comes MRSA. However, he points out that nearly 50 percent of all Staph infections are MRSA and that Zyvox (Pfizer) is an alternative to IV vancomycin that “would be very helpful in this group of potential patients.”
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