Though members of the baseball and women’s crew teams were diagnosed with MRSA — a strain of staphylococcus infection — earlier this week, the University has neglected to officially notify all student-athletes of the infection’s presence on campus.
Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus, or MRSA, has a higher resistance to certain antibiotics than other strains of staph infection, according to Richard Martinello, medical director of hospital epidemiology at Yale-New Haven Hospital. Several athletes interviewed expressed concern about the limited information available to them regarding the infection and the number of students on campus who have contracted it. But Yale Health Director Paul Genecin said he does not see “an official need” to notify the Yale community of an infection at this time.
“I am a bit surprised that there has seemingly been no initiative taken to formally alert athletes by coaches or the athletics department to share news of the outbreak and of how to prevent further outbreaks,” Yale women’s soccer player Kristina Kim ’18 said.
She added that she and her teammates have only heard about the recent spread of MRSA through word of mouth, and that a formal announcement would have been a good way to explain the relative severity of the infection.
In a Wednesday email to the News, Genecin said that Yale Health has been cooperating with Yale athletic authorities to restrict the reach of the infection through increased cleaning of athletic facilities and equipment, though Genecin did not confirm that there are current MRSA cases.
He added that everyone can prevent infection by being careful about hand-washing, keeping breaks in the skin covered and not sharing items that may become contaminated by contact with skin.
Heavyweight crew coach Steve Gladstone said he would only be worried about the infection if his team shared facilities and equipment with the affected teams. However, Gladstone said, each crew team at Yale has their own tank, boat bay and equipment. He added that since there is no possibility of contact between his team and the infected athletes, he saw no need for a formal announcement to him or his athletes.
“If there were shared equipment and shared locker rooms then I think it would be very important for us to know,” Gladstone said. “I don’t see any fault in any part of the administrators.”
But the crew teams are an exception, as their members do not use either of the two weight rooms in Payne Whitney Gymnasium. But most Yale athletic teams — including the baseball team — share the rooms.
Female coxswains for male crew teams, however, do share a locker room with the women’s crew team — one of the teams whose athletes are reported to have contracted MRSA — at an off-campus boathouse in Derby, Connecticut.
Despite the shared facilities, Genecin said he does not believe there is any widespread risk to the student population.
“We always work with public health officials as well as University leadership to assess risk and to take appropriate action,” Genecin said. “At this time, I do not foresee any need for official communication to the student body.”
Joe Conlin, offensive line coach for the football team, said he was not aware of any cases of MRSA within the Yale athletic community.
Quarterback Morgan Roberts ’16 noted that his trainers take extra precautions when other teammates have infections, but since learning about MRSA on campus, he hasn’t seen any change in protocol.
“Our head trainer normally freaks out and makes us cover up all of our open cuts with tape when something like that is going on and that hasn’t been the case,” Roberts said.
Although some cases of MRSA are more serious, causing skin and soft tissue infections that later develop into abscesses, oftentimes, MRSA causes infections that are easily controllable, Martinello said.
“It is quite common, but thankfully in healthy young people it is usually a skin infection rather than an overwhelming septic condition,” Genecin said.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, there were 94,360 MRSA infections in the U.S. in 2005.