Freddy Galvis, MRSA, and preventing a team-wide outbreak

Phillies shortstop Freddy Galvis was hospitalized with a staph infection in his leg early Friday morning. By the afternoon, one source reported the infection was being treated as MRSA.

Galvis will begin the season on the disabled list, but the more immediate concern is for his personal well-being—and that of other Phillies players, personnel and even opponents.

The best-known cases of MRSA outbreak in recent sports history involved NFL teams. The St. Louis Rams, Cleveland Browns and Tampa Bay Buccaneers have all experienced somewhat widespread outbreaks since 2003. Well-known players including All-Pro LeCharles Bentley and Kellen Winslow Jr. were affected.

So what are the chances that the Phillies and medical professionals can isolate this case to Galvis before it spreads throughout the entire team? Is it already too late?

“There is a chance they can control this infection from spreading,” says Theresa Madaline, M.D., attending infectious diseases physician at Montefiore Medical Center in Bronx, N.Y. and instructor of medicine at Albert Einstein College of Medicine, “but it’s by no means a sure thing.”

Dr. Madaline is originally from Philadelphia and graduated from Jefferson. She says if the infection is to be controlled, the Phillies have their work cut out for them.

“It’s common, when people are in close quarters as athletes often are, for these infections to spread,” she admits. “There are things that can be done to prevent that—there are protocols for decontamination.”

In particular, carpets, equipments, showers, bathroom facilities and any other surfaces will be areas of concentration for those who may end up working to decontaminate the team’s facility in Clearwater, Fla.

As for Galvis, he will likely be prescribed a host of antibiotics either intravenously or orally—a treatment Dr. Madaline quotes as successful in “up to 80 percent of people.”

MRSA (Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus Aureus) infection is caused by a strain of staph bacteria that over time, becomes resistant to the antibiotics used to treat most staph infections. According to the Mayo Clinic, the majority of MRSA infections occur in hospitals or other health-care centers and are typically associated with invasive procedures.

Since Staphylococcus Aureus occurs fairly commonly, many people are totally unaware that they have it. The problems start when the bacteria is able to enter the body through a cut or wound—an obvious concern in a locker room or on a baseball field. While many people with strong immune systems—including, presumably, professional athletes—can fight off an infection with only mild symptoms, those with weakened immune systems can be susceptible to the antibiotic-resistant strain.

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