Nationwide, staph infections on the rise
After 19 members of Monmouth College’s football team were diagnosed with a staph infection during the current season, school officials are taking action to prevent the spread of the bacterial ailment.
Staph infections have made headlines after the death of a 17-year-old Virginia high school senior this week was attributed to methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus, a strain of staph resistant to standard antibiotics.
Monmouth’s Associate Athletic Director Roger Haynes said Friday student athletes who present symptoms of staph to an athletic trainer are immediately referred to a local doctor. Officials monitor the athletes’ progress and medication.
"They’re not allowed to return to practice until all symptoms have subsided," he said. "We have them stay out of athletic facilities. They have no contact with their teammates."
The athletic facilities are also being cleaned daily. Haynes said the college is doing everything required by the county health department.
"It’s somewhat of an unavailable target," he said. "You can’t see it. You can clean and clean and it’s all around us. It just depends if you’re susceptible to it."
Currently three players are experiencing symptoms of the infection.
Bradley University has had two athletes come down with staph this year— one baseball player who contracted MRSA earlier this year and a soccer player who developed staph this week, this first two cases head athletic trainer Marcus Ohnemus has seen in his six years at Bradley.
Ohnemus said early recognition by staff members helped the soccer player receive proper antibiotics. He was kept away from teammates until the affected period was over.
"That’s the biggest thing … to recognize what looks like staph," he said. "We just want to get them through the proper channels as quick as we can."
Staph can spread via air, on contaminated surfaces and from contact with infected people. Many people carry staph and don’t get sick until the skin is punctured or broken, allowing the bacteria to enter the wound.
The Peoria City/County Health Department doesn’t have records of the number of MRSA cases because infections aren’t required to be reported. And patients often receive treatment through physicians, so hospitals don’t have records, either.
Lisa Dallmeyer, an epidemiologist at Peoria’s health department, said the department hasn’t received any phone calls regarding staph.
"It’s really been pretty quiet (here)," she said.
Were someone to call with questions about preventing the infection, Dallmeyer said the department would recommend basic sanitation practices.
"Wash your hands. Cover your wounds. Don’t share stuff," she said. "And just use good common sense."
Both Bradley players responded well to oral medications.
Ohnemus said it’s somewhat difficult to determine what triggered the infections.
"You don’t know really where it comes from," he said. "It’s just a matter of taking care of it."
Nationwide, the infection has become more prevalent outside health care facilities, where it was previously predominant.
The rate of invasive MRSA was almost 32 per 100,000 people, according to an editorial published in the Journal of the American Medical Association on Wednesday. Staph causes sickness in more than 90,000 Americans annually, according to the government.
Some signs and symptoms of staph include skin infections, such as boils and rashes, according to the Mayo Clinic. MRSA infections resemble pimples or spider bites, but can become deep, painful abscesses. If spread to the bloodstream, the bacteria can be fatal.
Jacqueline Koch can be reached at (309) 686-3251 or email@example.com.