2 Swimmers Report Staph Infections


“2 Swimmers Report Staph Infections”

MAJOR SOUTHWESTERN CITY: 12/08/2004 – At least two [suburb] High School swim team members have contracted staph infections since an outbreak among athletes in September and October. And at least one of them contracted methicillin-resistant staphylococcus aureus, a strain resistant to the most common antibiotic treatments. But athletic director [AD] said that swimmer may have contracted the infection away from school grounds and that the situation remains under control in the athletic department.

“It's unfortunate that we have a new case, but at least it wasn't another case using the same facility as we've been using with the mainstream of our athletes on campus,” [AD] said.

Members of the swim team are bused to the [name] YMCA pool for their workouts.

[AD] said he was aware of only one confirmed staph infection of an athlete in recent weeks.

Staph commonly causes skin problems such as boils and abscesses but can sometimes cause more serious infections of the bloodstream and other systems.

In late September and early October, 12 athletes were reported to have contracted staph, possibly in the high school athletic wing.

The mother of the swimmer who recently contracted the MRSA strain suspects he may have gotten the infection at school.

“You can't really know where,” said [mother 1] of [suburb]. “You just know it's going around the school.”

[ED], executive director of the [name] YMCA, said Monday morning that he wasn't aware that anyone using the facilities had contracted a staph infection. He said YMCA officials would take the appropriate steps to disinfect the facilities.

Continuing measures

After the earlier infection of several athletes, school officials sent letters to athletes' parents and started disinfecting the school's athletic facilities each night.

“We continue to do the same things,” [AD] said. “We continue to spray dressing rooms and wipe down all common equipment that is used by different sports.”

[Mother 1] said that may not be enough.

“It helps to fumigate and wipe surfaces, but I don't think it's enough if people are still getting it,” she said.

[Doctor], chief executive officer of the [suburb] Minor Emergency Center and the first person who treated [mother 1’s] son, agrees.

“It goes further than wiping down a counter,” [doctor] said. “You have to evaluate each one of those athletes and ascertain whether they have it or not.”

He said that in the last 45 days he's treated at least 10 athletes from the area for staph infections. Some had fevers and received antibiotics, he said.

“[Suburb] is not the only place that is having problems,” he said.

[Professor], a professor of pediatrics at the [state university’s regional medical center] at [city], said that staph infections are common and that sometimes testing everyone in a population and then treating those affected is warranted.

“If they are recurring ones, I think the next step would be to colonize and eradicate it,” said [professor], chairwoman of the infection control committee for [city children's medical center].

Mother satisfied

[Mother 2], whose son is on the [Suburb] swim team and recently contracted a staph infection, said she is satisfied with the district's response to the first cases.

“It's pretty normal for staph to go through a high school, but [suburb] was having a little more problem than usual,” she said.

Her only concern was receiving a letter about the infections only after she had heard of them through the newspaper.

[AD] said students suspected of having staph infections are looked at by a trainer and then encouraged to see a doctor. They sit out of practices until a doctor approves their return, usually for a day or two, he said.

[Mother 1] and [mother 2] said their sons sat out of practices because of staph infections.

[AD] said coaches and the trainer are on alert for staph. He said he thinks the district is on the path to eradicating it among athletes.

“We really feel like we're eradicating the source, and we feel like we're going to continue until we have no new cases at all,” he said.

“There comes a point in time where you've done everything you're supposed to do.”

What we know:

  • At least twelve high school athletes contracted staph infections; two are members of the swim team.
  • The high school uses the nearby YMCA pool for swim team practice.
  • Staph is a common bacterium that can cause skin as well as invasive infections. Staph can be transmitted through direct skin contact and through skin contact with shared contaminated equipment. Common areas for transmission include locker rooms, athletic facilities, steam rooms, and saunas.
  • An infection may be difficult to treat as certain strains of the bacterium are resistant to antibiotics.
  • Staph cannot survive in properly treated and sanitized pool water, but staph can be contracted in the surrounding pool area or if the water is not properly treated.

What we don’t know:

  • Where the bacterium originated in the community or how the infected athletes became exposed to the bacterium
  • The quality of the pool water in the facility
  • What actions the organization has taken to prevent the contraction of the disease
  • Whether the latest infections were contracted at the high school or at the facility…both locations must be considered exposed without further answers…i.e., were others besides the high school students infected? If no one other than high school students were infected, perhaps the source was not the pool, as that facility is used by many other swimmers.

What we should learn:

The bacterium that causes a staph infection can cause serious illness and can spread very quickly if proper sanitation precautions are not taken. A facility has numerous areas and pieces of shared equipment that can facilitate the spread of the disease. The following guidelines should be followed to prevent the spread of illness in your organization.

  • Shared Equipment (exercise machines, tables, lockers, etc.)

    • Use disinfectant spray to clean frequently touched surfaces of shared equipment between uses
    • Thoroughly clean and disinfect shared equipment surfaces at least daily
    • Repair or dispose of equipment that has damaged surfaces that cannot be adequately cleaned or disinfected
    • Clean and disinfect large surfaces such as tabletops, benches, and floors at least daily
    • Orientation sessions and signage in the fitness area should encourage users to clean equipment after each use
  • Steam Rooms and Saunas:

    • Advise patrons to always use appropriate clothing or a towel to act as a barrier between benches and bare skin
    • Allow steam rooms and saunas to dry at least daily
    • Clean and disinfect daily frequently touched surface areas
    • Paint or seal wooden benches with a waterproof material to seal and smooth the surface, thus reducing the areas where bacteria may grow
  • Pools and Spas: *Check and record chemical levels every hour, ensuring that they fall into the following ranges (check state and local bathing codes as chemistry requirements may differ or be more strict): * Pools: * pH: 7.2 – 7.8 * Free chlorine > 1.0 ppm * Spas: * pH: 7.4 – 7.6 * Free chlorine > 3.0 ppm * Temperature < 104° F

    • Keep chemical test records for at least three years. These records are your evidence that proper water quality has been maintained.
    • Single use spas should be thoroughly cleaned and disinfected between each use.


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