When it comes to school sports, the challenger isn’t just the other team. Lurking in locker rooms, on floors, wrestling mats, football equipment, hockey pads, weight rooms and showers are all manner of bacterial, viral and fungal infections. For coaching staffs and school building managers, having a proactive facility hygiene program in place is critical to preventing and mitigating infectious disease outbreaks in schools.
Some of the more common infections that are readily transferred skin-to-skin or via shared facilities or equipment include herpes, ringworm, impetigo and herpes. One of the most troublesome is Methicillan-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA), a highly contagious drug-resistent bacteria. Some of these pathogens can live for weeks or even months on hard and soft surfaces often shared by athletes.
The American Academy of Pediatrics has just released a clinical report that focuses on how to prevent and control outbreaks of infectious diseases in organized sports. A recent New York Times article highlights the demands on athletic managers and facility managers to tackle the transmission of infections in and out of the locker room.
Regular, proper cleaning and disinfection of surfaces, showers, benches, lockers, mats and floors is vital. This daily maintenance should pay close attention to toilets, sinks and door handles which are havens for pathogens. Facility hygiene practices should be assessed by infection quality control professionals to identify potential risk areas and recommend procedures.
Sports equipment can be more challenging to clean and disinfect. Football pads and helmets, hockey gear, shin guards, tackle dummies and weights can all contribute to outbreaks. Each should have a preventative cleaning plan in place.
Tom Licker, Division Manager of Infection Control Technologies in Monroe, New Jersey, says “Soft-surface equipment disinfection is trickier. Regular washing machines can’t handle sports equipment, and manual methods just aren’t sufficient. The most effective way to ensure that all pathogens are being eliminated on pads and within the structure of the gear is to utilize specialized wash systems that can disinfect and deodorize without damaging it.
And what happens if an outbreak occurs? “The source of the outbreak needs to be identified and mitigated as quickly as possible,” says Licker. “It’s best to have a service provider and action plan already in place to expedite the process of sports facility infection control. Once the immediate problem is addressed, it’s crucial to evaluate how it happened and make the changes needed to prevent a recurrence.”
ICT: First in Infection Control and Biological Decontamination. Infection Control Technologies, (ICT) a division of Insurance Restoration Specialists, Inc. (IRS) is one of the nation’s leading Building Hygiene contractors. ICT provides Facility Hygiene Services and Emergency Decontamination for some of the nation’s most respected real estate and Risk Management Professionals, Health Care, Municipalities, Institutions, Food Safety, Transportation, and government organizations.