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MRSA: Understanding It and Preventing It - What the Redskins are Doing About MRSA

How the Redskins Battle MRSA

Newspapers, magazines, radio and TV are chock-full of reports these days about the alarming and growing problem concerning MRSA, or Methicillin-Resistant Staphylococcus Aureus infection.

As of October, six states had reported MRSA outbreaks and several deaths of young people have been attributed to this organism. Toward that end, some school districts have decided to close operations so that facilities can be properly sanitized.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention considers MRSA infections to be a major public health problem. MRSA has killed 19,000 Americans and infected upwards of 90,000 Americans in a recent year, according to the American Medical Association.

Experts say that upwards of 35 percent of the population is colonized but not infected with the Staph Aureus bacteria, which is usually found on the skin and in the nose.

Greater use of antibiotics in hospitals has caused selection of a strain of Staph that has become resistant to methicillin, an antibiotic that used to be a powerful Staph killer.

The organism usually infects the skin causing superficial, honey-colored crusting and deeper skin lesions produce pimples and boils.

MRSA-related problems are more common in situations and settings when there is close and repeated skin-to-skin contact; cuts and abrasions; contaminated surfaces; crowded living conditions, and poor hygiene. MRSA can be recurrent, medical specialists emphasize.

Redskins medical director Bubba Tyer emphasizes that sports-related facilities are among those environments susceptible to MRSA infections and outbreaks.

Adds Tyer: "With bacterial staph infections like MRSA becoming more prevalent outside of the hospital setting and becoming more of an issue in amateur and professional sports, we've taken an aggressive approach to protect our players."

At Redskin Park, the team has been utilizing a new invisible defense of sorts, the advanced antimicrobial protection of SportsAide, in and around its practice facilities.

"We've become proactive in a serious effort to protect our players, coaches and staff from these potentially dangerous infections and illnesses," Tyer said.

He added: "Using a high-tech defense like the one we've added at Redskin Park is still just one step in keeping an environment safe from these types of infections.

"It's important for everyone to be educated in simple steps that can be taken and really aid in the fight against picking up these types of bacteria."

Basic steps that can aid in the prevention of such infections include:

 Wash hands often using warm water and soap or an alcohol based hand sanitizer  
  • Shower after workouts and/or practice
  • Avoid sharing towels, razors, and daily athletic gear
  • Clean surface areas
  • Wash clothes in hot water and use bleach
  • Properly wash athletic gear and towels after use
  • Wash with hot water of 120 degrees
  • Dry in electric gas dryer of 180 degrees
  • Increase recognition of infection and disease.

"Further, you should notify medical personnel if symptoms of infection develop," maintains Bubba Tyer. "These include redness, swelling and increased pain."

HCA Implements MRSA Prevention Protocols

As it does in other settings, such as classrooms, locker rooms and homes, MRSA is having an impact on HCA's hospitals in Virginia and across the nation.

Under the leadership of Dr. Jonathan B. Perlin, HCA's Chief Medical Officer, all facilities have implemented more aggressive infection prevention protocols and have begun programs to educate patients, visitors and staff on the causes and dangers of this public health problem.

"MRSA is nothing new for hospitals; it's been around for decades," says Teresa Stowasser, RN, who serves as infection prevention practitioner liaison to HCA from the company's Capital Division.

Stowasser adds: "But with the increasing prevalence of community-acquired MRSA, we've renewed our efforts to combat the spread of infections within our facilities."

In a June 2007 study, the Association for Professionals in Infection Control & Epidemiology, Inc., estimated that about five percent of all hospital patients were either infected or colonized with MRSA. MRSA is colonized when bacteria are present in the body but have yet to cause an infection. MRSA infections can cause pneumonia or infect wounds, the urinary tract or the bloodstream. They are typically treated with intravenous drugs.

HCA's MRSA initiative: Active surveillance.

Nasal screenings are conducted on two patient populations: those who have frequent contact with a hospital or other healthcare setting, and those who are at high risk, including long-term care patients, dialysis patients and certain surgical patients.

Barrier precautions.

Patients who are colonized or infected are isolated in private rooms to reduce the chances that bacteria are transmitted to others. All caregivers wear gloves or gowns when entering the room.

Compulsive hand hygiene.

Because MRSA is primarily spread by person-to-person contact, hand-cleaning is the single best step in eradication of MRSA. At HCA caregivers use reminder posters and patient handouts and place hand sanitizers in public locations.

"Good hand hygiene is probably the single most important step in preventing MRSA," says Stowasser. "Any good commercial hand sanitizer can be extremely effective, but so, too, can bar soap and water as long as people scrub for at least 15-20 seconds."

Disinfection and environmental cleaning.

All hospital personnel, including nurses, are educated on the ins and outs of proper cleaning. It's not enough for a surface to be clean; it must be free of disease-causing agents.

Executive Champions.

Chief Executive Officers and Chief Nursing Officers at all HCA facilities are expected to take leadership roles in the company's MRSA initiative. As executive champions, they make frequent rounds throughout their facility to show a visible commitment to the program.

Healthy Tips We Can All Follow

The Virginia Department of Health recommends these steps to prevent MRSA and other staph infections:

 Wash your hands often, especially when you're exposed to someone with an infection.   
  • Keep cuts and scrapes clean and covered.
  • Avoid sharing personal items such as towels, sports equipment and razors.
  • If a sore or cut becomes red, oozes, causes pain or isn't healing, see a doctor.
  • Don't insist on antibiotics for colds, or other viruses.
  • If prescribed antibiotics, take all the pills, even if you feel better before they are all gone.
  • Proper hand hygiene, the appropriate use of antibiotics and thorough cleaning can help stop the pathways of MRSA transmission.
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