In January, a student athlete contracted Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus Aureus (MRSA) and was hospitalized at Oaklawn Hospital after visiting Student Health Services. It is unknown exactly where and when the student contracted the bacteria.
“The student athlete noticed a wound on their leg and brought it to the attention of one of the nurses at Health Services,” said Sara Koski, head athletic trainer. “The nurse then referred the student athlete to Oaklawn Hospital for testing and treatment. Oaklawn confirmed that it was MRSA and immediately treated the student-athlete with I.V. antibiotics. The student athlete is still being treated, but has been cleared by a physician to return to play.”
The department responded immediately to the student’s MRSA hospitalization by sanitizing the locker rooms and gear.
“Each in-season team or head coach was notified of the case and education about checking for open wounds and general hygiene was discussed,” Koski said.
Coaches then spoke to their athletes about symptoms and prevention.
“At first, all I knew [about MRSA] was basically if I got it I wouldn’t be able to swim for the rest of the season, but it turns out MRSA is a lot more serious than what I thought it was,” said Nino Caccamo, Shelby Township sophomore and swimmer.
According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), the symptoms of MRSA often present as a skin infection. The site of infection can resemble a bug bite and the bumps are swollen, red and painful. In severe cases, the infection may look like boils with pus or other drainage.
“MRSA can also be the cause of more serious infections such as pneumonia, endocarditis, osteomyelitis, meningitis and blood-stream infections,” said Dr. Kelly Kozlowski, ’02 alumna and emergency room physician.
Kozlowski sees several cases of MRSA each day. It’s treated with antibiotics, but the disease is evolving.
“Staph aureus has always been responsible for skin infections, but the concern here is that the bacteria have become ‘smart’ and have changed so that traditional penicillin and cephalosporin antibiotics no longer treat the infection,” Kozlowski said. “This has now been around for several years.”
MRSA is communicable, meaning it spreads from one infected person to another.
“It can be passed by shared linens such as bedding, towels and clothing or by touching skin or surfaces that the infection has touched,” Kozlowski said. “People can also be colonized by MRSA and can pass it by respiratory droplets.”
The CDC suggests ways to prevent the spread of MRSA among athletes. These include showering after practices or games, washing uniforms regularly, keeping wounds covered and reporting any possible infections.
The student athlete who contracted MRSA declined to comment on this story.
Photo courtesy of Janice Haney Carr, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Wikimedia Commons