Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus, more commonly referred to as MRSA, causes a staph infection that is particularly tricky because of its immunity to most antibiotics. Even though the prevalence of MRSA in hospitals is dropping in the United States, we are seeing more and more people contracting it in community settings, such as on sports teams and at gyms. It affects roughly 80,000 people each year and can lead to other serious illnesses if left untreated.

How is MRSA spread?

Many people believe MRSA is only spread through open wounds and cuts, but that simply isn’t true. The National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases estimates that one-third of the population carries MRSA bacteria on their skin and in their nose. Because the bacteria can be present without causing an infection or showing any symptoms, people unknowingly pass it via skin-to-skin contact. That’s why hospitals, gyms, and other places where you are in close physical contact with other people are the most common places for contracting MRSA.

Why are gyms and yoga studios a hotbed for MRSA?

Like any other bacteria, MRSA thrives in hot, moist areas, including in sweat from your pores. Couple that with sharing equipment, and gyms and yoga studios place people at the highest risk for picking up the infection. All the treadmills, ellipticals, weights, and other hard materials you use when you work out may carry the MRSA bacteria as a result of improper cleaning, and that bacteria can live on these surfaces for up to a week. More porous materials, such as yoga mats and exercise mats, are even more dangerous because the bacteria can absorb into the material and live there for several days. Bringing the equipment back into your home post-work can subject your entire household to MRSA if they are not cleaned right away.

How serious is MRSA?

The severity varies on a case-by-case basis, but it is something you should take care of immediately if you see symptoms. It is incredibly contagious – another reason why community settings are so dangerous for contracting MRSA – and can cause a rash, head or muscle aches, chills, fever, fatigue, shortness of breath, and chest pain. Even worse, it can cause more severe complications including pneumonia and sepsis.

How can I protect myself against MRSA?

The most important thing you can do is always practice good hygiene, especially when you are sharing equipment. Avoid close contact with people who are sweaty, have open wounds or cuts, or have a rash. You should also avoid sharing towels, razors, clothes, or other personal items that have sweat residue or have been in close contact with skin. When you’re finished working out, shower and change out of your clothes as soon as possible and don’t rewear your clothes until they have been washed. For all the yogis out there, you can take even more precaution by using a germ-resistant yoga bag from ThePureBag™. Each bag provides powerful protection against MRSA and other bacteria, leaving your yoga mat germ-free before each use. See for yourself in our shop – we carry germ-resistant yoga bags, zippockets, mat wraps, and cinch bags to keep your gear bacteria-free.