Knoxville (WVLT) – The number of reported cases of the MRSA Staph Infection is rising across the United States and East Tennessee.
Researchers from the Center for Disease Control have long warned about the life threatening infections which are mostly acquired in hospitals, but MRSA has been steadily creeping out of hospitals and into the community.
It made national headlines last week, when a Virginia High School student died from MRSA.
But what is being done about it now that cases have turned up in schools, restaurants and gyms?
Here in East Tennessee a variety of businesses are on the offensive.
Take Chuck E. Cheese, the place “where a kid can be a kid.”
Experts say that's part of the MRSA problem.
Children are notorious for not washing their hands or not doing it right and that's how staph bacteria can spread.
It's actually an extremely common germ found on most people's skin, but it usually doesn't cause an infection.
Occasionally it can, wrecking havoc on a person’s health and even sometimes turning deadly.
That’s why managers, like Dawn Armstrong at Knoxville’s Chuck E. Cheese, are taking notice to protect your family from a new epidemic.
"We're constantly cleaning,” Armstrong said. “We use Clorox II to clean and sanitize everything and we keep it up everyday."
MRSA is spread by close skin-to-skin contact through openings in the skin, like cuts or abrasions with contaminated items and surfaces.
Crowded living conditions and poor hygiene also can lead to infection.
According to moms, the threat of the infection has even crept into casual conversations over lunch.
"We definitely use the hand sanitizer when we're in places like this, before we eat, when they use the bathroom and when we go home," said parent Jennifer Farmer.
"My main concern is when we leave, we'll need to make sure we wash our hands,” said parent Jennifer Stambaugh. “When we get home, I'll probably change their clothes."
At the Rush fitness complex, keeping one step ahead of MRSA is a constant battle.
"Since we opened back in 2001, we knew it was an issue of cleanliness in the gym and having a clean facility that's safe for our members,” said Jennifer Wurl, General Manager of the Rush. “It's really something that we adapted as our culture, since the day we opened."
Most of MRSA’s spread to the community can be stopped by simple preventive steps.
Many of those steps are followed by the Rush.
"All members are required to have a towel when they enter the facility,” Wurl said. “Then we have sanitizing wipes throughout the facility so that they can wipe down the equipment before and after use."
It takes a community wide effort to keep the community acquired MRSA infection from reaching epidemic proportions.
CDC officials say the best ways to prevent MRSA are to wash your hands, covering cuts and scrapes with a clean bandage, not touch other people's wounds or bandages and not share personal items like towels and razors.