A High-Morbidity Outbreak of Methicillin-Resistant Staphylococcus aureus among Players on a College Football Team, Facilitated by Cosmetic Body Shaving and Turf Burns
Background. Athletics-associated methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) infections have become a high-profile national problem with substantial morbidity.
Methods. To investigate an MRSA outbreak involving a college football team, we conducted a retrospective cohort study of all 100 players. A case was defined as MRSA cellulitis or skin abscess diagnosed during the period of 6 August (the start of football camp) through 1 October 2003.
Results. We identified 10 case patients (2 of whom were hospitalized). The 6 available wound isolates had indistinguishable pulsed-field gel electrophoresis patterns (MRSA strain USA300) and carried the Panton-Valentine leukocidin toxin gene, as determined by polymerase chain reaction. On univariate analysis, infection was associated (P < .05) with player position (relative risk [RR], 17.5 and 11.7 for cornerbacks and wide receivers, respectively), abrasions from artificial grass (i.e., “turf burns”; RR, 7.2), and body shaving (RR, 6.1). Cornerbacks and wide receivers were a subpopulation with frequent direct person-to-person contact with each other during scrimmage play and drills. Three of 4 players with infection at a covered site (hip or thigh) had shaved the affected area, and these infections were also associated with sharing the whirlpool ⩾2 times per week (RR, 12.2; 95% confidence interval, 1.4–109.2). Whirlpool water was disinfected with dilute povidone-iodine only and remained unchanged between uses.