Outbreak of impetigo hits varsity athletes

Bacterial skin infection contained among varsity athletes, ARC last week

The first reported cases of impetigo came on Sept.19.
The first reported cases of impetigo came on Sept.19.
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According to multiple people familiar with the situation, over ten cases of impetigo were discovered among Queen’s varsity athletes last week. The outbreak was contained but prompted a full-scale disinfection and cleaning of the Athletics and Recreation Centre (ARC), along with facilities at Richardson Stadium.
 
The first cases of the skin infection were reportedly noticed on the morning of Sept. 19, Queen’s Athletics told The Journal.
 
During a scheduled 6 a.m. weight lifting session in the ARC’s Lifting Zone, several members of a varsity team approached Athletics and Recreation (A&R) staff with an unknown skin condition on various parts of their bodies.
 
Individuals who showed symptoms of the condition were removed from the training session and directed to Student Wellness Services (SWS), where they were later confirmed to have contracted impetigo.
 
“Those [affected] individuals were immediately removed from participation in all activities and were directed to Student Wellness Services for assessment and treatment,” Athletics wrote in an email statement to The Journal.
 
“All students affected were provided with specific instructions about cleaning their homes to minimize risk of spread.”
 
Impetigo is a skin infection transmitted through sweat and skin-to-skin contact. It appears as red sores on the body, which give way to honey-coloured crusts over time. While easily treated with antibiotics, the condition can be highly contagious and highly transmittable.
 
After the first case of impetigo was reported, Kingston Public Health (KFLP&A) was contacted and “[s]everal departments across campus mobilized quickly […] to take action to support all students involved and minimize any spread,” Athletics wrote in their statement.
 
“Further disinfection and cleaning of facilities and equipment was completed that day and another round overnight as a precautionary measure.”
 
It didn’t specify to what exact measures the Lifting Zone was disinfected—or how—but noted that “[a]s per A&R standard operating procedures, our staff regularly clean equipment.”
 
When asked whether the Lifting Zone remained open to both athletes and gym members throughout Sept. 19, Athletics didn’t provide direct response.
 
“ARC staff immediately disinfected areas that affected athletes had come in contact with,” they wrote. “It was all contained within a day, and all activities are back to normal.”
 
According to Claudia Wheler, who was working in the Lifting Zone the morning of the scheduled workouts, the area remained open to the public till 12:30 a.m., the ARC’s closing time session. 

“[Football’s] lift was at 6 a.m. and they had another team lift come in at 7 a.m.,” Wheler told The Journal. “So lifts were happening, and people were working out [all day].” 

Wheler confirmed to The Journal that football players who showed symptoms of the infection were swiftly removed from the weight room. However, those who didn’t show signs of infection completed the rest of their training.

She added the day following the incident, ARC staff were made to wear gloves while doing laundry in the building’s basement. By the time Wheler spoke to The Journal, Sept. 25, she and her employees were still made to wear gloves.

Considering the situation, though, Wheler said she feels comfortable continuing to work in the laundry room. 

“I think it’s been fully contained,” she said. 

Adrian Hansen-Taugher, Manager of KFLP&A’s infectious disease program, advised Athletics throughout their sanitation process.

“If there had been reason for them to close down [the Lifting Zone], then we would have made that recommendation,” Hansen-Taugher said. “We told them about the areas that needed enhanced cleaning.”

In an email sent to all varsity athletes on Sept. 20, an Athletics senior management staff member warned students about the impetigo outbreak. Athletes were provided information regarding the condition’s symptoms and referred them to SWS. 

“If you have difficulty obtaining an appointment,” the email read, “indicate you are calling as a varsity athlete related to the skin issue—SWS is aware of it and has a lead doctor seeing all cases.”

No varsity practices have been cancelled due to the outbreak, however, the day symptoms of the condition first surfaced, all varsity practices were downgraded to non-contact. Athletes who were affected took the day off.  

According to Pat Sheahan, head coach of the football program, “somewhere around eight to 10” of his players contracted impetigo. 

Considering the timing and progression of the reported impetigo cases, Sheahan said he was impressed with Athletics’ swift response. 

“The first day things showed up, [those affected] got it looked at, and as soon as one person said, ‘Hey, I have something that looks like that also,’ they all got treated right away,” Sheahan said. 

“I’m happy to say that we’ve had no further cases, and it looks like this is one crisis that has come to an end.”

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