Thursday, December 1, 2011

How to Keep From Getting MRSA in the Gym – Staph Infection Prevention

Practical Tips to Prevent Spread of MRSA in Exercise Facilities - Photo by CDC/Bruno Coignard, M.D.; Jeff Hageman, M.H.S. at Wikimedia Commons
MRSA, Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus Aureus, is a bacteria that can cause staph infections that are difficult to treat. A MRSA infection on the skin, the most common site, often looks like a pimple or boil or the infections might be mistaken for a spider bite initially. The bacteria can cause infections in other areas of the body as well. Although MRSA, also termed a "super bug," is becoming more common in the community, people can take practical steps to help prevent the spread of this community-acquired infection in exercise facilities.
Handwashing and Other Infection Prevention Tips at the Gym ©Katrena
What can exercise facilities do to prevent the spread of MRSA?

The good news is that some sources and studies indicate that gymnasiums may pose a low risk for spreading MRSA; however, facilities that provide excellent infection prevention techniques can help prevent the spread of a broad range of illnesses and instill more trust in participants. Nobody wants to go to the gym to come home with MRSA.
  • Provide hand sanitizer that is easy for staff and participants to access.
  • Ensure that soap is accessible in showers and by sinks.
  • Regularly clean equipment and surfaces that come into contact with bare skin with EPA-registered detergents/disinfectants.
  • Provide appropriate and easy-to-access cleaning supplies for participants to clean equipment after use.
  • Routinely inspect equipment and remove or repair any equipment that has surfaces that cannot be adequately cleaned.
  • Ensure that pools have proper pH, chlorine, etc. levels.
  • Develop guidelines related to infection prevention and post signs within the facility encouraging people to practice these measures.
  • Have first aid kits readily available with personal protective equipment and supplies for covering wounds.
  • Provide education about infection prevention and ensure that staff and participants utilize good gym hygiene.
Prevent Resistant Infections in the Gym - Photo by CDC at at Wikimedia Commons
What can participants do to help prevent the spread of MRSA in a gym?

Although MRSA can cause a variety of symptoms and is challenging to treat effectively, some people are carriers of the bacteria and have no symptoms but could potentially spread MRSA to others. People who routinely work or live around high risk populations for acquiring MRSA, such as in hospitals, nursing homes, dialysis centers, etc. may be at risk to become a MRSA carrier. People who have certain chronic conditions, have altered immunity, or who are very young or very old are at increased risk for developing serious complications related to a MRSA infection.
  • Practice good hand hygiene.
  • Clean equipment after use.
  • Cover wounds appropriately and do not let open wounds directly touch surfaces.
  • Place a barrier between your skin and surfaces through the use of a towel or clothing.
  • Seek the opinion of a healthcare provider if a wound shows signs of infection, such as redness, drainage or pus, is swollen or painful, and is accompanied by a fever.
  • Alert staff members if levels are getting low on cleaning supplies, hand sanitizer, soap, etc.
  • Avoid sharing personal care items such as towels, washclothes, and razors. 
  • Avoid going into recreational water if you have open wounds.
  • Do not let others directly touch open wounds on your skin.
  • Take a shower after participating in activities that involve skin-to-skin contact.
Prevent Skin Infections at the Gym - Photo by Janice Carr, CDC at Wikimedia Commons
CDC articles:
NIH March 2011 article Are gymnasium equipment surfaces a source of staphylococcal infections in the community?

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