Battling the Bacteria

Five cases of staph infections have been reported among student athletes this year. The contagious bacteria, alsoknown as Staphylococcus Aureus,has kept the students from practicing andcompeting in sports. All five students wereable to quickly treat the skin disease withoral antibiotics. California high-schoolstaph outbreaks have been increasingly reported this year, according to the California Department of Public Health.

Water polo player Maxx Bricklin ’09 was diagnosed with a staph infection in Aug. while touring Serbia for the U.S. Cadet water polo team. He was in the pool for about seven hours each day for a month.

“There was not a lot of food, and the hygiene was terrible,” Bricklin said. “I had to use the same towel every night and could not wash my clothes often.”

Reusing and sharing towels may lead to a greater opportunity for contamination, said registered nurse in the Intensive Care Unit at the Hollywood Presbyterian Medical Center Hospital Sharon Kim. The lack of food kept him malnourished and weakened his immune system, making him
more vulnerable to the bacteria, Bricklin said.

“I was feeling sick and I had a high temperature,” Bricklin said. “It was hard to play and it kept me from swimming.”

While in Serbia, Bricklin did not have the right antibiotics to treat the infectious bacteria on his upper lip. His body was constantly aching. When he came back to Los Angeles, he quickly treated the bacteria with oral antibiotics and antiseptic face wash. Within 10 days, he was able to get back into the pool again.

“I wash my hands and face a lot more,” Bricklin said. “I would never want to have a bacteria take away from my game.”

Wrestling is a notorious sport for the spread of infectious bacteria. Two wrestlers had been diagnosed with staph infections this year. One of the diagnosed wrestlers noticed his staph infection on his leg early February, a week before his CIF competitions.

“It started out looking like an ingrown hair, it got red and grew into a mound,” he said. “The doctor cultured it, but I was out for a week. It hurt my game and the team.”

Another wrestler had the infection on his arm and was restricted from participating in sports for two weeks.

“The Athletic Department made sure that I was not at practice when I was recovering from the infection,” he said. To stay in shape, the wrestler jogged to avoid contact with any other students.

“Almost everyone on the team uses a Ken Shield cream, a foam you rub on your skin as a barrier against ring worm and bacteria,” wrestler Patrick Newman ’10 said.

The wrestling team also mops down the mats with an antiseptic fluid before each practice, Newman said.

“We advise everyone to use Ken shield, wipe themselves down with the disinfect wipes before practice, and shower after practice,” wrestling coach Gary Bairos said. Wrestlers on the team agree that the use of antiseptic wipes, protective foam, and showers have all led to a great decrease in infections this year.

“It’s so important for students to be responsible and careful in sports with a lot physical contact sports,” volleyball coach Steven Chen said.

“Students should wash their hands often, especially when in crowded areas with lots of contact,” Kim said.

At the school, antiseptic hand wash is provided at the entrances of the weight room and antiseptic body spray is provided at the trainer offices. The synthetic grass turf on the Ted Slavin Field is washed down frequently with water to prevent the spread of bacteria.

“Open communication is vital to protecting the safety and health of our students,” Head of Athletics Audrias Barzdukas said. “Students need to let us know when and where they get these
infections for us to combat them.”

Most of these skin infections are minor, such as swollen skin or boils. If the infection goes untreated, the bacteria also can cause serious infections such as surgical wound infections, bloodstream infections and pneumonia. There are many strains to this bacterium, including Methilin-Resistant Staphylococcus Aureus, a drug resistant form that cannot be treated with
antibiotics.

FMS, the school’s cleaning company, washes down all campus facilities daily and chemically disenfects areas prone to infection like the weight room, wrestling room and Taper gym twice a week. Mats and floors are rinsed daily. The Ted Slavin turf field is washed down daily and is
chemically disinfected anually.

“After a staph breakout two years ago, we’ve been very diligent to keep the school facilities safe and clean on a daily basis,” Jim DeMatte, Director of Campus Operations and Construction.