MRSA (Methicillin-Resistant Staphylococcus Aureus)

MRSA Infections in Athletic Facilities

To: Campus Community
From: Hank Fijalkowski, Head Athletic Trainer
Patrick Weidinger, Director Safety and Environmental Health
Dr James Heffern, Director of Health Services
Date: September 21, 2007

MRSA Infections in Athletic Facilities

Recently there have been some concerns about skin infections affecting some members of university athletic teams. The purpose of this memo is to explain what this infection is, what you should be aware, especially if you are an athlete or use university athletic facilities, and what to do if you suspect an infection. Also, how to care for a possible infection and what precautions you should take to avoid an infection. Finally, what is being done to contain the infection, treat those infected, prevent future occurrences, and educate the public about MRSA. MRSA stands for Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus. It is a bacterium that causes infections in different parts of the body. It's tougher to treat than most strains of staphylococcus aureus -- or staph -- because it's immune to some commonly used antibiotics. The symptoms of MRSA depend on where you're infected. Most often, it causes mild infections on the skin, causing pimples or boils.

What causes it?
Garden-variety staph are common bacteria that can live on our bodies. Plenty of healthy people carry staph without being infected by it. In fact, 25-30% of us have staph bacteria in our noses. Staph can usually be treated with antibiotics. But over the decades, some strains of staph -- like MRSA -- have become resistant to antibiotics that once destroyed it. MRSA was first discovered in 1961. It's now immune to methicillin, amoxicillin, penicillin, oxacillin, and many other antibiotics.

How is it spread?
MRSA is spread by contact. So you could get MRSA by touching another person who has it on the skin. Or you could get it by touching objects that have the bacteria on them. MRSA is carried, or "colonized," by about 1% of the population, although most of them aren't infected. MRSA is not spread through the air by coughing or sneezing.

What to be aware of
MRSA skin infections may look like a pimple or boil. Some people confuse it with an ingrown hair, pimple, or insect bite. It may be red or swollen, painful, pus filled or draining. In the early stages it may look like a pimple. Cause for concern is when that pimple is sore or painful.

What to do.
If you have any questions go to the Health Center for evaluation. Do not wait. Prompt treatment can mean the difference between a small lesion or something larger that may require more intensive care.

Cultures of this particular pathogen on campus has shown that it is resistant to certain antibiotics but not all. We are using those that it is susceptible to. Treatment will consist of the prescription of three types of medication. (Bactrim-DS; Doxycycline 100 mg.; and Bactroban cream)

To avoid 'staph' and MRSA, the CDC recommends that athletes practice good hygiene, including:

  • Keeping your hands clean by washing thoroughly with soap and water. Athletes should be encouraged to shower and wash with soap after all practices and competitions. It is important to shower immediately after practice with soap. Do not wait until later. Delaying showering will give the bacterium time to enter any small cuts or abrasions that may have occurred in practice or a game.
  • Keeping cuts and abrasions clean and covered with a proper dressing (e.g., bandage) until healed.
  • Avoiding contact with other people’s wounds or material contaminated from wounds, including towels, clothing and sports equipment.
  • Most important is that the athletes have any questionable lesion evaluated promptly.

What can Be Done to Control MRSA?
To avoid spreading MRSA and all diseases in athletic and weight training facilities it is important that all students be properly attired, have any open wounds covered with a dressing, and sanitize the machines and equipment after use.

Will I Be Hearing More About MRSA?
Yes. MRSA is here to stay. High school, college, even professional sports teams are all struggling with MRSA infections and the problem will continue to get worse. Look for more information from the Athletics, Health Services, and other university departments in the coming months about MRSA.

For more information visit:


If you have any questions contact Athletic Training at 871-4227 or 871-4226, Health Services at 871-5250 or Environmental Health & Safety at 871-4240.