Staph or staphylococcus bacteria often live on the skin or nose of healthy people, causing no harm. However, staph can cause infections that can be serious. MRSA, or methicillin-resistant staphylococcus aureus, is an antibiotic resistant staph bacteria that is worth avoiding. According to PBS, MRSA causes about 19,000 deaths a year.
Prevalence in Population
According to PBS, around 25 percent of the general population normally carries staph on their skin. About 1 percent carry MRSA. With this number of healthy people carrying staph, it is not unusual to come into contact with this germ, particularly at the gym.
Staph is usually transmitted from skin contact with an infected person. Staph is a tough bacteria that can withstand drying, extreme temperatures and salt at high levels. These qualities make it possible for the germ to live on objects found in a gym, like towels and exercise machines.
The most common type of infection caused by staph is skin infections such as boils or pimples. A boil is an infection that develops in a hair follicle or oil gland. The boil looks red and swollen and may break open and drain pus. Staph can also cause blisters know as impetigo, or cellulitis, which causes skin to look red, swollen and dimpled. If you have these symptoms, do not use gym facilities until you see a doctor.
Draining the boil is sometimes the only treatment needed. Staph, even MRSA can be successfully treated with antibiotics. Be sure to finish all the medicine given for a staph infection.
Lower Your Risk
Some simple steps can lessen your chances of picking up a staph infection at the gym. Don't give bacteria a way into your body; keep cuts and scratches covered. Carry two towels, one to wipe surfaces clean and another to put between you and the machine. Take a shower as soon as possible after working out; if you shower at the gym, use your own towel and wear shower shoes. If you can't shower right away, wash your hands thoroughly.
- New Jersey Department of Health and Senior Services: Frequently Asked Questions about MRSA
- PBS Newshour: New Outbreaks of Drug-resistant Staph Infection Reported in Schools
- Medline Plus: Staphylococcal Infections
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: Have you been diagnosed with a Staphylococcus aureus or MRSA infection?