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Pittsburgh Hospital Teams with Pirates Baseball Club in Unique Effort to Encourage Teen Handwashing, Prevent Spread of MRSA

"All Great Athletes Have Great Hands" Poster Features Gold Glove Outfielder Nate McLouth, Three Teen Athletes

PITTSBURGH, April 21 /PRNewswire/ -- Allegheny General Hospital (AGH), in partnership with the Pittsburgh Pirates baseball club and the city's Northside Leadership Conference, announced today the launch of a new campaign designed to raise awareness among teenagers about the dangerous skin infection MRSA and how regular hand-washing can help prevent its transmission.

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MRSA, or methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus, occurs mostly in healthcare settings but an increasing number of cases are being reported in community settings such as high schools.

AGH's new campaign, "All Great Athletes Have Great Hands," features Pirates Gold Glove outfielder Nate McLouth and three athletes from the city's Northside high schools, Oliver, North Catholic and Perry Traditional Academy.

"Handwashing is the cornerstone of infection prevention efforts," said Sharon C. Kiely, MD, MPM, Medical Director, Quality & Patient Safety at AGH. "As healthcare professionals dedicated to infection control, we applaud these outstanding athletes for helping us educate teenagers about this issue and the importance of adopting a simple habit that will help them stay healthy and active."

The centerpiece of the handwashing campaign is an eye-catching poster, "All Athletes Have Great Hands," featuring McLouth, North Catholic basketball guard Ashley Bellovich, Perry Traditional third baseman Jake Gross and Oliver quarterback Donte Jones.

AGH infection control personnel will also visit area high schools to address assemblies about the dangers of MRSA and the role of hand washing as the best weapon against infection. Presentations will include "Glo-Germ," which graphically highlights the presence of germs on computer keyboards, Wii controllers, soda bottles and sports equipment.

"AGH has a rich history of developing outreach programs that focus on improving the health and well being of our communities. This new campaign addresses a significant, emerging public health problem and we are extremely grateful to the organizations who have come together to assist us in this effort," said Debra L. Caplan, senior vice president at AGH and the hospital's chief liaison to the northside community.

Students attending school assemblies will learn about proper handwashing technique, how germs are spread, sanitizer vs. soap and water, and MRSA.

"Teenagers have been a forgotten group in MRSA education outreach," said Cheryl Herbert, director of AGH's Infection Prevention Program. "Most efforts have focused on children and older adults, but with MRSA infections increasing in schools, we felt it was important to educate teenagers about this critical public health issue."

Herbert stressed that hand-washing is also effective at reducing the spread of other common illnesses, such as influenza.

The involvement of a professional athlete like McLouth is key to getting teenagers' attention, Ms. Herbert said.

"I am very happy to be part of this campaign," McLouth said. "As a professional athlete, I believe it is important to serve as a positive role model in the community, and if lending my support to this effort means even one less young person has to deal with this devastating illness, then it is immensely worthwhile."

The so-called "5Cs," factors that make it easier for MRSA to be transmitted, are common in schools. These factors are Crowding, frequent skin-to-skin Contact, Compromised skin (cuts or abrasions) Contaminated items and surfaces, and lack of Cleanliness.

MRSA is usually transmitted by skin-to-skin contact, or by sharing or touching items such as towels or bandages used by an infected person. Most MRSA infections outside the hospital setting appear as red, swollen, painful pustules or boils on the skin.

MRSA prevention measures include keeping hands clean by washing with soap and water or using an alcohol-based sanitizer, showering immediately after exercising, covering wounds with a clean, dry bandage until they heal. Also, do not share personal items such as towels that touch the skin, and put a towel between your skin and shared exercise equipment such as mats or weight machines.

According to Ms. Caplan, AGH hopes the "All Great Athletes Have Great Hands" campaign becomes a model program for hospitals in other cities around the country. The campaign is an initiative of the AGH Northside Partnership.

A similar poster campaign developed by AGH in 1992 that recruited the city's three professional sports franchises to encourage bicycle helmet use by children had just such an impact. That campaign, "Helmets, All the Pros Wear Them", became a nationally acclaimed program that was duplicated in numerous U.S. cities.

SOURCE Allegheny General Hospital
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