Resistant infection carried by 25% of state’s population
November 8, 2007 12:16 PM
Across the nation, there is spreading fear about a bacterial infection that is resistant to most antibiotics and can turn deadly if untreated.
While staph—the common name for staphylococcus aureus—can weaken your system enough to put a human in mortal danger, it’s also been around for while. Health officials said there is little cause for concern on campus.
“It’s very common,” said Becky Reimer, a registered nurse in infectious disease department at Mills-Peninsula Hospital in Burlingame. “It’s more common than appreciated.”
According to the California Department of Public Health Web site, approximately 25 to 30 percent of the population carries the bacteria, which resides dormant in the nose. Reimer said 40 percent of the patients at her hospital are carriers of the bacteria.
The most common cause of a staph infection is when the bacteria comes in contact with a break through the skin, whether from another person or an object, like clothing, sports equipment or furniture.
In addition to the common staph infection is a strain of staph that is resistant to penicillins known as Methicillin-Resistant Staphylococcus Aureus, also known as MRSA.
Some of the most common places for staph bacteria to spread are gyms and locker rooms. In these locations, the bacteria sits on exercise equipment as well as clothing or in showers and bathrooms, according to the California Department of Public Health.
SF State health education major Alicia Padillapaz and nursing major Tiffany Trujillo said they both do not like using the locker rooms inside the gym.
“They look unsanitary,” said Padillapaz, 20.
“The locker rooms look like they have not been properly cleaned out,” said Trujillo, 21. “I wouldn’t use them unless I had to. So many people use them.”
Mitch Wasik, the head athletic trainer in the SF State athletics department, said he had seen no cases of staph or MRSA under his watch.
“We have dealt with this proactively with education of athletes. We have been informing them on hygiene practices,” Wasik said. “[Staph] could pop up anywhere.”
Ajani Byrd, the director of the Recreational Sports program in the kinesiology department, which oversees the weight room and gym separate from the athletics department, has never seen an outbreak in their weight room.
“We keep it pretty immaculate,” Byrd said. “Every hour, my attendants are required to wipe down equipment. We require that anyone that goes into the weight room to bring a towel.”
Since places like the weight room have a huge threat of spreading the staph bacteria, keeping it clean is a huge priority. “The weight room is our biggest liability,” Byrd said.
Angel Olmedo said that the locker rooms in the gym look clean.
“I haven’t seen anything that’s unsanitary,” said Olmedo, 20. He uses the locker room to change for his swimming class. Olmedo brings his own shampoo to shower with and makes sure his shorts are dry and stored in a plastic bag.
Like the California Department of Public Health, Reimer of Peninsula Hospital said that staph infections, including MRSA, are treatable and preventable.
“People aren’t dropping in the street from MRSA,” Reimer said. Like most infections and colds, frequent hand-washing is key to stopping the spread. Using soap and scrubbing hands for 15 seconds, or as long as it takes to sing “Happy Birthday,” will kill the staph bacteria, according to the California Department of Public Health. Antibacterial soap is not necessarily needed.
“Anyone could die [from MRSA] but it’s being blown out of proportion,” Reimer said. “It’s always been around. The old-fashioned flu will kill more people.”
While MRSA is resistant to antibiotics, Reimer said that if it is caught early enough then it can be effectively treated.
“There’s no reason a young person should die from MRSA,” Reimer said.
Staff writer Christina Nguyen contributed to this article.
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