Health

Five bugs you can catch in the changing room

Picture of rugby players in close contact Image copyright AP
Image caption Rugby tackles and baths after games can help bugs spread between teams

We all know soap and water are the only weapons needed against most of the bugs lurking on bathroom surfaces and changing room floors.

But a few more hardy organisms can hitch a ride on towels and tiles and can even be spread through rugby tackles.

Warts and verrucas

Image copyright SPL
Image caption Warts come in all shapes and sizes and spread easily through contact

A common sight on the knuckles, knees and feet of many young children, these harmless rough lumps are caused by strains of the human papilloma virus.

They can vary hugely in size and shape and sometimes appear in stubborn clusters.

Warts and verrucas (a type of wart found on the feet) are very easy to spread, with close skin-to-skin contact often passing them between people.

They can also be picked up through contact with contaminated surfaces such as changing room floors and the areas surrounding swimming pools.

Most disappear on their own but treatments do exist for more persistent cases.

PVL-MSSA

Image copyright SCIENCE PHOTO LIBRARY
Image caption The bug can cause skin infections that then spread to deeper tissues

Public health experts have urged rugby players to stop sharing towels, razors and even cold baths after a cluster of PVL-MSSA infections was found at a Midland's rugby club.

But skin doctors say any close contact sport, including wrestling, can leave people at risk.

The PVL-MSSA bug leads to unsightly boils, abscesses and carbuncles and in serious cases can spread to the bloodstream and cause widespread infection.

The condition is caused by a strain of bacteria, known as methicillin-sensitive Staphylococcus aureus, that produces a toxin called Panton-Valentine leukocidin.

Antibiotics can get rid of the bug if treated early and family members and close contacts of anyone with the infection may need to see a doctor too.

Scrumpox

Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption The dangers posed by concussion are currently the subject of considerable scrutiny in several sports

Also known as herpes gladiatorum because of its link with martial arts, this crusty rash is caused by the herpes simplex virus.

As the bug takes hold people experience itching and burning sensations on the skin before a crop of painful fluid-filled blisters appear.

Close contact, particularly rough, abrasive contact during rugby tackles and wrestling matches, can make the blisters burst and pass the infection on to team mates.

Antiviral pills help get rid of the infection.

Athlete's foot

Image copyright SPL
Image caption The fungus often finds its perfect home in the webs between our toes

Also known as tinea pedis, this fungal infection leads to an itchy, red rash and flaky, dry skin in the webs between toes.

It thrives in dark and humid environments and feeds off dead skin tissue, making feet and bathrooms the ideal home for the fungus.

And the bug is commonly found near swimming pools, showers and changing rooms.

It is spread very easily, being passed from person-to-person through contaminated towels, clothing and surfaces.

Antifungal creams, powders, or sprays available at pharmacies normally treat it effectively - but further advice should be sought if it doesn't clear up.

Molluscum contagiosum

Image copyright SPL
Image caption These bugs often cause raised, itchy pearl-like spots

Doctors are often able to diagnose this infection by looking at the tell-tale pearl-like spots it can cause on affected skin. They aren't painful but can be very itchy.

Although the virus is highly infectious, most people are resistant to it and are unlikely to develop symptoms, even if they come into contact with infected individuals.

But for those who don't have resistance it can be spread through skin-to-skin contact or it can be passed on by touching contaminated objects such as towels and flannels.

Spots tend to clear on their own.

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