Sports and Infectious Disease – Part 1 of 3

6 04 2013

exeterIf you coach a little league team, parent an active athlete or are an avid sportsperson yourself, it is important to know what health risks may be present during athletic events other than shin splints and bruised egos.

Close physical contact and a heightened chance of bleeding present a chance for disease transmission unless appropriate precautions are taken.

Athletes, trainers, coaches, parents, and teachers alike must know how to prevent the transmission of bloodborne viruses such as HIV and hepatitis B or C, or even skin-to-skin infections.

These infectious diseases, and others, pose complex problems for athletes of all ages and everyone involved in sports activities.  But following standard precautions to prevent bloodborne, skin-to-skin, and respiratory infections simplifies and safeguards sports events and ensures that everyone can participate safely.

Sports and Standard Precautions

Universal use of standard precautions is critical because many children, adolescents, and adults who are infected with viruses, such as HIV and hepatitis B or C, may not even know they have these viruses.  Estimates vary, but some predict that more than half of those infected with these viruses do not know they’re infected.

Standard precautions protect everyone, from those whose diseases have been identified, to those that have not yet been diagnosed, to those not infected.  When everyone follows standard precautions, no one who has an infection needs to be treated differently.  Essentially, standard precautions are the great equalizer; when followed, they allow everyone to fully and safely participate in sporting events.

The more serious bloodborne viruses that athletes need to be aware of are: HIV (the virus that causes AIDS), hepatitis B, and hepatitis C.  There is no recommendation that people infected with these viruses not be allowed to participate in most sports.

Although HIV and hepatitis C are not vaccine-preventable, there is a safe and effective vaccine that prevents hepatitis B infection.

Skin-to-Skin Infections

According to the NCAA Injury Surveillance System, “skin infections accounted for almost one-third of the practice time loss events” in wrestling during the 2001-2002 season.  As a result, the NCAA recommends that coaches, teachers and other sports officials be able to identify symptoms of skin infections.  Symptoms may include:

  • Crusting
  • Scaliness
  • Oozing lesions

Skin infections may include:

  • Bacterial skin infections including impetigo, erysipelas, carbuncle, staphylococcal disease, folliculitis and hidradenitis suppurativa.
  • Parasitic skin infections including pediculosis and scabies.
  • Viral skin infections including herpes simplex, chickenpox and molluscum contagiosum.
  • Fungal skin infections including ringworm.

In some cases, such as fungal infections, the skin conditions can be covered with a securely attached bandage or non-permeable patch to allow participation in the sporting event.

In addition to identification and treatment of individuals with skin infections, prevention can occur through proper routine cleaning of all equipment, including mats and shared common areas, such as locker rooms.

Respiratory Illnesses

Anyone with an infectious respiratory illness, such as flu, or whooping cough, or perhaps tuberculosis, should be prohibited from playing to prevent the spread of infections that are transmitted through respiratory routes.

Check back over the next couple of weeks for Parts 2 and 3 in this sports series. Part 2 gets into specifics on bloodborne pathogens, and Part 3 provides guidelines for sports teams to follow before, during, and after each event.

 

See PKIDs’ Infectious Disease Workshop for more information.

Photo courtesy of University of Exeter





Germs (and kids) Go Back To School!

27 08 2012

Kids are headed back to school, and all their germs are going with them. This means that germ-swapping is about to take place. Are you ready? Is your child?

Share these three concepts with your kids and their school year is likely to be healthier than years past.

Clean your hands

Use soap and water if possible and if not, use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer with at least 60% alcohol. Clean hands before leaving the house, after you get to school, before you eat, after using the restroom, and anytime your hands are dirty. Important: keep your hands off of your eyes, nose, and mouth, and don’t touch any scrapes or breaks on your skin unless your hands have just been cleaned.

Get immunized

Parents, this one is up to you. Most kids aren’t going to remind you that they need to be vaccinated, so please put it on your schedule to get it done. We don’t have vaccines against every disease, but in combination with clean hands and standard precautions, they’re effective shields against infections.

Practice standard precautions in daily living

Practicing standard precautions means assuming that every person’s blood or body fluid is infected with HIV, HBV, or other bloodborne germs, and then acting accordingly to prevent infection. Since most people who are infected are unaware of their infection status, it’s safest to assume everyone is infected with something and to keep barriers between yourself and another person’s blood or body fluid. This means that you never use your bare hands to touch someone’s blood (or body fluid). You get a towel, or put gloves on, or find something to put between you and the fluid. Kids should simply tell an adult if they see someone who is hurt and know not to touch anything leaking from another person.

If you repeat the messages often enough, the kids will adopt the habit of prevention.

By Trish Parnell
Image courtesy of Johnny Ancich





Standard Precautions for Your Family

19 12 2011

At PKIDs, we talk a lot about disease prevention and the three steps you and your family can take to stay as healthy as possible. Today I’m going to share some of our information about one of those steps, but I can’t resist mentioning the other two.

First, keep your hands clean and don’t touch your eyes, nose or mouth. Those are prime areas for germs to enter your body.

Second, check with your provider to see what vaccines you and your family need and then get vaccinated on schedule.

Third, practice standard precautions in daily living. This means that you assume that everyone’s blood and body fluids are infectious for HIV, hepatitis B or C, or other bloodborne pathogens and you act accordingly.

People of all colors, rich and poor, fat and thin, old and young are chronically infected with HCV, HBV, HIV, and other diseases. Forty to 90 percent of these folks don’t know they’re infected.

It’s impossible to identify those living with an infectious disease. The only way to try and keep yourself and your kids reasonably healthy is to learn a practical approach to standard precautions. At first, you’ll be paranoid of everyone and everything, but as the precautions become habits, they’ll be a natural part of your life—like turning the lock on a door, or stepping on the brake at a red light. They will become normal, daily precautions.

The primary thing to remember with standard precautions is to always have a barrier between your skin and mucous membrane (around the eyeballs, gums, and inside the nose), and the (potentially) infectious substance. Go to a medical supply store and buy some latex gloves. Keep them in your house and car. If you don’t happen to have gloves and you need to deal with someone’s body fluid, put sandwich baggies or trash can liners over your hands. Use a sanitary napkin or thick, rolled-up towel to collect the fluid or staunch the flow of blood.

Sometimes blood and body fluids can become airborne. If you wear glasses, keep them on. If you don’t wear glasses, put on your sunglasses to protect your eyes. If you have one, tie a scarf around your face like the masked bandits used to do.

Use a one-part bleach to ten-part water solution or another disinfectant for cleaning up substances, including your own! As soon as you have dealt with the situation, throw away the disposable protective items (your gloves, etc.) and wash your hands thoroughly.

As soon as possible, cover your hands again and remove any non-disposable items you’re wearing and wash them appropriately. Common sense will guide you in this. Just don’t go through all of the precautions only to bare-hand your dress which is covered in someone else’s body fluid.

Make sure you keep all of your cuts and abrasions covered with a waterproof bandage. Be careful with badly chapped skin. It can crack and allow fluids to enter and exit. These precautions are a two-way street. You may be one of the millions unaware that you’re living with an infectious disease.

Only you know if your child is old enough to understand these precautions. Practicing them with your kids would be useful for the whole family. If your kids are too young to understand what we’ve outlined, there are a few things you can try to help the younger members of the family participate in standard precautions.

It would help if you set aside a non-work day to role play this with your kids. Call it: Family Safety Day. This would also be a good day to practice evacuating the house in case of fire and all those other safety rules we seldom rehearse.

To help the kids understand how invisible germs can pass from one person to the next, put glitter on your child’s hands and let him/her go to the bathroom, play with family members, and pick up a cracker (without actually eating it). Go back to the beginning of the journey and walk him/her around the house, following the trail of glitter. This will help demonstrate how we can pass germs (and other things) to each other without knowing it. To press home the point, you might put glitter on your hands, too.

Have one member of the family be “bleeding” ketchup. You be a young child and run for an adult when you see the blood. Have your young child go through the same scenario several times. Then pretend there’s no adult around and show your child how to use a coat or towel as a barrier between them and the blood.

It’s important that they learn not to reach out and touch another person’s blood or body fluid. One way to help them understand (and this is kind of gross) is to ask them if they would touch someone else’s poop or nose gunk. Most kids, no matter how young, will say no. You can then explain that blood is really personal, like poop and nose gunk, and they don’t want to touch anyone else’s blood.

This approach is necessary only for a few years. Once they get to be five or six, you can start explaining more.

A few general rules for everyone to remember would be: don’t share razors, toothbrushes, manicure tools, nail clippers, hypodermic needles, cocaine straws, body piercing equipment, tattooing equipment, or anything that can puncture or is a personal grooming item.

Standard precautions as practiced by healthcare professionals cover a wide range of topics, including sharps disposal, ventilation devices (mouth pieces for resuscitation), specimen handling, and other opportunities for the spread of infection which you are unlikely to come across in daily living.

We wanted to give you some practical, basic precautions to help you live a normal, safe life. Let us know if you have any ideas for teaching little ones precautions.

You might want to check on your daycare or preschool or kindergarten’s awareness of standard precautions. Most of them will say they’ve had AIDS training. If they are receptive to suggestions, feel free to share some of these ideas with them.

We know of a preschool which keeps a chart for cleaning the bathrooms, gloves are always worn when necessary, and they really work hard to do everything right. But, several of the preschoolers never get to use soap on their hands because the sink is too wide for them to reach across to the soap dispenser, and the side access is blocked from a large storage cabinet which is pushed against the sink. The best of intentions can’t overcome reality.

Following these steps won’t guarantee you a disease-free life, but it’ll cut down on the number of infections you have.

By PKIDs staff

Image courtesy of skidmore.edu





Monkeypox

2 07 2010

This blog is a long time coming. We heard about monkeypox a few years ago and wanted to write it up just so we could use the word “monkeypox.”

Turns out, monkeypox the disease isn’t as funny as the word. When infected, one gets a blistery rash similar to smallpox. In areas of Africa where the virus is endemic, one to 10 percent of human cases end in death.

Although the virus was first detected in monkeys, other animals can become infected, including humans

The first outbreak of monkeypox detected in the U.S. was in 1993 and probably started with animals imported from Africa infecting pet prairie dogs, who then infected humans.

Monkeypox can be transmitted in unusual ways, including through the consumption of bushmeat—legal (or illegal) wild animal meat imported to cities in Europe and the U.S.

There’s no specific treatment for monkeypox and prevention methods are the usual: handwashing, avoid sick animals, and practice standard, contact, and airborne precautions.

Turns out monkeypox just isn’t funny.