Locker Room Indoor Air Quality and Transmissible Disease

From MRSA to COVID-19, Germs Can Kill

indoor air quality in their locker rooms

Pre-COVID-19, the words “pandemic” and “deadly transmissible disease” didn’t affect most of us more than a passing notion. For athletes, coaches, and athletic clubs the focus on indoor air quality in their locker rooms was primarily limited to odor control. Then MRSA hit the scene.

For nearly a decade, bacterial staph in the form of MRSA (1) has plagued players and continues to do so. But now there is a greater threat in the locker room – viral Coronavirus (2) and thwarting both present considerable challenges.

MRSA

Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) infection is caused by a type of staph bacteria that’s become resistant to many of the antibiotics used to treat ordinary staph infections. This means that the antibiotics that used to kill the bacteria — such as methicillin — no longer work. This makes MRSA infections much more difficult to treat.

MRSA first surfaced in hospitals, where it often caused serious bloodstream infections in people who were sick with other diseases and conditions. Now there are varieties of MRSA that occur in nonhospital settings. These infections typically affect the skin of otherwise healthy individuals (3) — such as athletes from time spent in locker rooms.

MRSA Transmission

MRSA is usually spread through physical contact – not through the air. It is usually spread by direct contact (e.g., skin-to-skin) or contact with a contaminated object. However, it can be spread in the air if the person has MRSA pneumonia and is coughing, though this is uncommon in an athletic setting since someone with pneumonia would be unlikely to be present for athletic activity.

MRSA Preventative Measures

The CDC recommends:

• Always keep athletic facilities, such as locker rooms, and shared equipment clean whether or not MRSA infections have occurred among the athletes.
• Shared equipment should be cleaned after each use and allowed to dry.
• Repair or dispose of equipment and furniture with damaged surfaces that do not allow surfaces to be adequately cleaned.
• Clean equipment, such as helmets and protective gear, according to the equipment manufacturers’ instructions to make sure the cleaner will not harm the item.

COVID-19

COVID-19 is a disease caused by Coronavirus SARS-COV-2 that can trigger a mild to severe respiratory infection. It can affect your upper respiratory tract (sinuses, nose, and throat) or lower respiratory tract (windpipe and lungs). It spreads the same way other coronaviruses do, mainly through person-to-person contact. Infections range from mild to deadly. (4)

COVID-19 Transmission

As of now, researchers know that the new coronavirus is spread through droplets released into the air when an infected person coughs or sneezes. The droplets generally do not travel more than a few feet, and they fall to the ground (or onto surfaces) in a few seconds — this is why physical distancing is effective in preventing the spread.

Over time, hospitals and other healthcare facilities developed stringent hygiene routines that successfully reduce the prevalence of bacterial staph and other transmissible diseases. But Covid-19 has presented new challenges – challenges that professional teams and athletic departments are only now trying to conquer.

COVID-19 Preventative Measures

The battle of keeping athletes healthy is challenging but not impossible. Following all CDC recommendations mentioned above, under MRSA prevention in addition to the Hierarchy of Controls model recommended for COVID-19 prevention. (5)

Locker Room Indoor Air Quality and Transmissible Disease 1

The first and third control methods are elimination and engineering controls, both of which require action to improve indoor air quality. The first, elimination, requires a 987-RUCA1 source control unit that would physically eliminate viruses that pollute the air and removing surface bacteria. Engineering controls such as proper HVAC systems and HEPA Air Scrubbers and Room Air Cleaners.