A superbug outbreak among the Tampa Bay Buccaneers football team is a “big deal” that could threaten the NFL season if it spreads, says a top physician.
“MRSA is a dangerous, life-threatening condition that absolutely must be taken seriously,” David Brownstein, M.D., told Newsmax Health.
The team’s management confirmed this week that two players are infected with MRSA, a powerful antibiotic-resistant staph infection that is highly contagious and can be deadly. The club also said that One Buc Place, the team’s training facility, had been “nuked” or sterilized to get rid of the bacteria that cause the disease.
“So far only two players are infected, so I don’t think they need to delay the season yet. But they do need to take appropriate measures to protect other team members, as well as their opponents,” said Dr. Brownstein, author of the Natural Way to Health
MRSA is particularly dangerous to football players because it is spread by person-to-person contact, which occurs constantly during practices and games. “Any skin abrasion opens the door for this superbug to take hold,” said Dr. Brownstein.
The infection has sidelined Pro Bowl guard Carl Nicks
and place-kicker Lawrence Tynes
.The team’s head athletic trainer Todd Toriscelli also has battled an infection since having knee surgery, but he has not so far been diagnosed with MRSA.
MRSA, or methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus, is a strain of staph bacteria that's become resistant to commonly used antibiotics.
While the infection can be limited to sores or boils on the skin, it can also spread to other parts of the body, resulting in life-threatening infections in bones, joints, bloodstream, heart valves, and lungs. Although MRSA is resistant to most antibiotics, there are some that do work against it. It is also treated with surgery to remove infected tissue. Tynes underwent surgery for MRSA on Tuesday.
Dr. Brownstein says the Buccaneers are making the right moves to stem the crisis, but he suggests players fortify their immune systems to protect themselves.
“The way to prevent MRSA is not to put everyone on antibiotics, but to build up the players’ immune system,” he said. “If you have a strong immune system in your GI tract, you are not going to get MRSA.”
Dr. Brownstein recommends 3,000 to 5,000 mgs of vitamin C daily along with a probiotic supplement.
MRSA was once largely confined to hospitals because of its easy spread among people with compromised immune systems. However, there have been more frequent outbreaks outside of healthcare facilities. Football players, because of their regular person-to-person contact, have shown to be particularly vulnerable.
One major concern for the NFL is that the players can be carriers of the disease without knowing they have it.
In 2003, MRSA infections were found in five players on the St. Louis Rams. Disease-causing bacteria were found in whirlpools used by players and on athletic tape. All the infected players recovered.
The Cleveland Browns were hit hard by MRSA in the mid-2000s, with six of its players affected by MRSA. Center LeCharles Bentley was hospitalized by five weeks and nearly had his leg amputated. At one point his life was reportedly in danger. The illness ended his career. Receiver Joe Jurevicius was stricken in his right knee and sued the Browns, claiming their facility lacked cleanliness.
The NFL Players Association has expressed concerned about the situation. The union’s executive director for external affairs George Atalla tweeted: “We are aware of the health and safety issue in Tampa Bay and our medical director has been briefed. We are also looking into ensuring that the team met its obligation to inform the players of the situation in Tampa Bay.”
Said Tampa general manager Mark Dominik: “We had a company come in and nuke the building a week ago after the cultures taken from Nicks and Tynes confirmed it was MRSA. It was a precautionary move, but we didn’t want to fool with it.”
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