On a sad note, a young Kentucky soccer player recently was diagnosed with and succumbed to a MRSA infection. He was doing great at practice on Thursday, and by Tuesday morning he had passed away. Our prayers are with both his family and friends:

A West Jessamine High School student battling a drug-resistant staph infection died Tuesday morning at the University of Kentucky Hospital.

Ryan Robinson, a junior, had been placed on life support after contracting methicillin-resistantstaphylococcus aureus, or MRSA, said Sam Pile, who coached the boy on the Jessamine Youth Soccer Association’s Storm Soccer Club, a traveling team.

Ryan’s aunt, Diane Lafferty of Johnson County, said her nephew died at 10:10 a.m. Tuesday, shortly after machines keeping him alive were turned off.

Electron Micrograph of MRSA by feastoffools @ flickrI’ve written about MRSA a few times here, mostly about the hysteria that surrounds it. Once CNN and friends started beating the drum about the huge danger from MRSA when a few students had died from it, people lost their minds. Schools shut down entire districts to sanitize every hard surface in every school to the tune of millions of dollars, despite the CDC noting it likely would do little to help. MRSA is a scary thing because it can act so swiftly and without warning. But soccer players are probably more apt to be hit by lightning than to die from MRSA.

Hopefully the media won’t stir up another storm of hysteria over this unfortunate loss of a  young athlete. Common sense steps like not sharing equipment and using hand sanitizer can help. But like Ryan’s coach noted, it’s still late winter in Kentucky, making the more commonly suspected forms of transmission a lot less likely:

MRSA is becoming more common among student athletes who are in close contact with one another. Staph is not uncommon among athletes, since bacteria that normally live on the skin and in the nose can enter through turf burns, cuts and scrapes or even a place where equipment rubs against the skin.

But Ryan had not had any injury, Pile said. He said experts will talk to the team about how to avoid and limit exposure to MRSA.

“We’ve all racked our brains. None of us can think of any way he would have gotten it,” Pile said.

“It’s cold out there at practice. These boys are all wearing track suits all the way up to their neck,” Pile said. “It’s not like they’re sweating in the summertime and bumping into each other. … All these guys have been wearing a couple layers of clothes. We’ve been training in 25, 30, 35 degree weather.”

From all that I’ve read, most experts who aren’t trying to hawk snake oil seem to agree that the more common forms of transmission are sharing of equipment like shin guards, that come in direct contact with the skin or direct skin-to-skin contact. Also, the risk to healthy people is small. Most deaths due to drug resistant staph infections are with people who recently had surgery and/or had an extended stay in a hospital. A 2003 study of MRSA infections requiring treatment showed only 12% of infections were ‘community-associated’.

The CDC has a FAQ available related to MRSA that is quite informative. H/T @ecp5 on Twitter