BACKGROUND: A microbe called methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) is a common cause of skin infections; it can also cause pneumonia, ear infections and sinusitis. Such infections were once only found in hospitals and prisons; patients with deep wounds and IV catheters, for example were at particular risk of infection. However, now that athletes are in such close contact with one another and share Jacuzzis, whirlpools and athletic equipment, this microbe is proliferating in locker rooms at all levels of sports. The Washington Redskins and other NFL teams are using science and better strategies to beat back the bug. MRSA bacteria are sometimes dubbed "superbugs" because they are highly resistant to common antibiotics like penicillin, making infections difficult to treat effectively.
SANITIZER, SOAP, HOT WATER? Nothing works better at getting rid of disease-causing viruses than simply washing one's hands with old-fashioned soap and water. That advice comes from the largest and most comprehensive scientific study ever done to compare the effectiveness of hand hygiene products. Scientists at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill studied how effective 14 different hand hygiene agents performed in reducing bacteria and viruses from the hands after a 10-second exposure. Subjects first cleaned their hands, which were then exposed to a harmless bacterium and a virus comparable to disease-causing organisms. Then the subjects cleaned their hands with various agents, after which the scientists measured how much of the bacteria and virus remained. The study showed that after a short exposure time of 10 seconds, nearly all the hand hygiene products reduced 90 percent of bacteria on the hands. But waterless alcohol-based hand wipes only removed about 50 percent of bacteria from the subjects' hands.
The Human Factors and Ergonomics Society contributed to the information contained in the TV portion of this report.