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Fight staph on your own -- and start at the gym

July 24, 2008 |  5:08 pm

Newweights With one local high school athlete dead from complications of a drug-resistant drug-sensitive* staph infection and another being treated for the condition, perhaps it's time for a refresher course in prevention. The infection isn't going away, and its ability to devastate isn't losing shock value.

The disease, caused by a strain of the bacterium Staphylococcus aureus, often begins in a fairly inocuous manner, with a small pimple or sore on the skin. As noted in the current story, Staph infection kills SoCal high school wrestler, the latest victim's symptoms began with rash and flulike symptoms. And athletes who share equipment and personal items are particularly at risk.

The California Department of Public Health offers prevention advice specifically for athletes and for athletic departments in general, including what to do with those team members who have draining wounds. Much time is spent on exactly how to wash one's hands.

And here are recommendations from the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health to health clubs, gyms and spas. If you want to ask the friendly maintenance personnel whether they follow these guidelines, feel free. In fact, feel obligated. For instance, they should know how to clean those wood surfaces in the sauna. Two words: Diluted bleach.

And a note to patrons: Use a towel between your sweaty self and that gym equipment. Because the guy ahead of you might not have.

But skipping the locker room or gym doesn't mean you're safe. For the rest of the world, here are basic prevention steps from the CDC.

* Keep your hands clean by washing thoroughly with soap and water or using an alcohol-based hand sanitizer.

* Keep cuts and scrapes clean and covered with a bandage until healed.

* Avoid contact with other people's wounds or bandages. (You know, if you have to be told this...)

* Avoid sharing personal items such as towels and razors.

-- Tami Dennis

*(As for the change from "drug-resistant" to "drug-sensitive," Times staff writer Mary Engel reported in Friday's paper that the infection was caused by a less formidable form of the disease. Here's her story. Prevention rules still apply.)

Photo credit: Don Bartletti / Los Angeles Times

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