Know MRSA, prevent MRSA!

Posted Leave a comment

What do Grant Hill, Brandon Noble, Daniel Fells, and Lawrence Tynes have in common?

  • Other than being elite sportsmen with access to the best healthcare, they have all had their own personal battle with Staph infection.
    • Grant Hill had ankle surgery in March 2003, 
      • and five days later, ended up with a MRSA infection.
  • MRSA (short for methicillin resistant Staphylococcus aureus) is a type of Staph bacterium that has the potential to cause deadly infections.
    • Hill needed intravenous antibiotics for six months, and missed the rest of his 2003/2004 NBA season.

Photo on the right is a computer-generated image of MRSA bacteria, which are arranged in a cluster (like grapes). 

Photo credit: CDC/James Archer
  • Brandon Noble had knee surgery in April 2005, and also ended up with a MRSA infection that would ultimately halt his career as an NFL player.
  • Daniel Fells was given a cortisone shot for a painful toe and ankle injury.
    • A week later, he was diagnosed with a MRSA infection in his foot.
      • Ten surgeries later, Fells announced his retirement.
  • Lawrence Tynes, two time super bowl champ also had to retire prematurely.
    • A lawsuit against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers cited unsanitary conditions at players’ facility for his MRSA infection.
      • Tynes and the Buccaneers settled the lawsuit in 2017 for an undisclosed amount. 
  • While this bacterium can be typically harmless in people with healthy immune systems,
    • it can be deadly in those with compromised or still developing immune systems.
  • In May 2019, LAPD officials said several police officers at the department’s West Valley station in Reseda may have been exposed to MRSA.
    • There are no further details forthcoming at this time.

Why do we worry about MRSA and what do people need to know about this easily preventable infection?

  • MRSA can spread directly by contaminated hands,
    • either our own or someone else’s,
      • which means all cuts, scrapes, burns and wounds, including surgical site incisions,
        • have to be covered until healed. 

Anyone treating wounds should wash their hands and wear gloves.

  • Athletes,
  • children in daycare,
  • school students,
  • military personnel in barracks,
  • those who are incarcerated,
  • the recently hospitalized, and
  • those in contact with them
  • are all at higher risk of MRSA,
    • because of potentially greater exposure,
    • crowded conditions and/or
    • lack of adequate hygiene.

MRSA can cause infections anywhere in the body.

Eleven year old Zachary Doubek had a painful knee at his baseball game.

  • Three days later, he was being rushed to the ER with life threatening sepsis.
  • Zachary had a MRSA infection that spread from his knee and into his blood.
    • Zachary was lucky to have survived his ordeal.
      • It took six surgeries and a month long hospital stay before he could be released for an additional eight weeks of rehab to regain his mobility and strength. 

To read more about Zachary Doubek’s ordeal, please click HERE.

How can we recognize MRSA earlier rather than later?

A part of the body that is red, swollen, warm to touch, and painful signals the presence of an infection.

  • Fever indicates increased seriousness of the infection.
  • You don’t know its MRSA unless you run certain special tests. 
  • It is common to mistake a MRSA infection for a spider bite.
  • A MRSA infection typically fills up with pus (unlike a spider bite) – in which case, cover it up, wash your hands, and then see a doctor.

Why do we want to diagnose MRSA earlier rather than later?

  • MRSA is resistant to multiple antibiotics, which makes it very difficult to treat.
    • This is why, in addition to intravenous antibiotics, Fells had to have ten surgeries to resolve his MRSA infection.
  • What usually stops MRSA is our skin, which when intact, is a formidable barrier.
    • When we compromise that layer of skin with
      • a cut, scrape, burn, wound, or an injection,
        • MRSA can access the underlying tissues, muscles, fascia and even the bone, and set up an infection that needs to be diagnosed and treated.
          • It could be that Zachary Doubek had a scraped knee which then picked up MRSA from his surroundings.
  • Health centers report about 80,000 serious MRSA infections and just over 11,000 related deaths to the CDC every year.

The opioid epidemic may be connected to the rise of staph infections in communities - this is because people who inject drugs are 16 times more likely to develop a serious staph infection!

The good news is you can avoid MRSA by engaging in the following potentially life-saving tips:

  • having good hand hygiene;
  • keeping all cuts and wounds covered until healed;
  • showering regularly,
    • especially after exercise or
      • participation in athletic activities;
  • not sharing towels, soaps, razors or other personal hygiene items;
  • and getting care early if you notice signs of infection.
  • Studies estimate that
    • if we don’t proactively tackle it,
      • by 2050,
        • there will be 10 million resistant infections a year
          • including MRSA and many others.
  • Our healthcare professionals and scientists are doing the very best to conquer this threat to public health.
    • But this may not be enough.
      • All of us have to engage in this battle against the bugs and we can do this by arming ourselves with knowledge on prevention of infections.