"Early in the year some of our football players started coming up and we noticed they had small bumps on them. One player went to the doctor and it was diagnosed as a spider bite," said Jeff Richey, head coach of the Barren County High School football team.
When antibiotics didn't work, the student went back to the doctor and learned it was something far more serious.
"It was diagnosed as a staph infection. That was our first case and we've stayed on top of it ever since," Richey said.
Barren County High School has seen eight cases of staph infection among football players this year, numbers that go along with the national trend of increased cases.
"I've been coaching here at Barren County High School nearly 20 years and I've never had a player before this year diagnosed with staph," said Steve Riley, head boys basketball coach and assistant principal.
Staph infection is most often shared through skin-to-skin contact and can quickly spread among athletes who share equipment and germs.
"I think football is more susceptible to staph than basketball because it's played in the mud and it's harder to keep locker rooms as clean as you'd like to," Riley pointed out.
Staph is often misdiagnosed.
"A lot of people write them off as an infected hair follicle, spider bite, and it can lead to something more serious," said Richey.
The coaches say the best way to deal with staph is to keep it from happening in the first place. Equipment is cleaned with Hibiclens and disinfectants and custodians keep locker rooms as clean as possible.
"I think the athletes are taking it more seriously now because their friends have gotten it. When a friend gets it you become more concerned about yourself because you see what they go through," said Riley.
As for the players who battled staph infections, they're treated and back on the field.
TIPS TO AVOID SPREADING STAPH INFECTIONS:
- Wash hands often or use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer.
- Keep cuts and scrapes clean and cover with bandages.
- Do not touch other people's cuts or bandages without wearing gloves.
- Do not share personal items such as towels and razors.
- Any draining wound should be covered with a clean bandage.
- Regularly clean surfaces and commonly touched areas with a disinfectant.
- Any item or surface contaminated with wound drainage should be cleaned promptly with an approved cleaner effective against MRSA bacteria.
For more on schools, staph infections and potentially deadly MRSA, click here.