Tactics To Stay Away From Flu, Coronavirus

Editor/Collegiate Baseball

ATLANTA, Ga. — The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimates there have been at least 34 million flu illnesses in the United States, 350,000 hospitalizations and 20,000 deaths from the flu this season from data collected through February.

Yet what grabs the lion’s share of media attention at this moment is the coronavirus. As of March 11, 938 cases have been documented in the USA within 38 states and the District of Columbia and 29 total deaths as reported by the CDC.

The methods for staying away from the flu or coronavirus are identical.

The standard practice for coaches has always been to isolate those players from the rest of the team so germs aren’t spread, no matter what infectious disease they are dealing with. More often than not, those players are sent home.

All too often entire teams come down with the flu or some other ailment.

Here is what Collegiate Baseball has found that may be helpful in having a game plan to keep players and coaches healthy during the baseball season.

Influenza viruses are spread from person to person primarily when an infected person coughs or sneezes near a susceptible person.

According to the CDC, transmission via large-particle droplets requires close contact between the source and recipient.

Airborne transmission (via small particle residue of evaporated droplets) might remain suspended in the air for long periods of time and typically can travel up to 20 feet.

The typical incubation period for influenza is 1-4 days.

The CDC reports that most healthy adults may be able to infect others beginning one day before symptoms develop and up to 5-7 days after becoming sick.

Because of the number of players who handle the same baseballs and bats during any given practice or game, these two products are prime spots for influenza germs.

Sterilizing Equipment
Weight training facilities are a breeding ground for bacteria. Athletes are encouraged to wipe down equipment with sanitizing wipes to prevent the spread of germs and especially MRSA.

This bacterium is tougher to treat than most strains or staph because it is resistant to some commonly used antibiotics.

If it is important to disinfect equipment such as this, why hasn’t baseball embraced sterilization treatments of bats and possibly balls that can be teeming with bacteria?

Dr. Herb McReynolds, Medical Director of Emergency Services at Carondelet St. Mary’s Hospital in Tucson, Ariz., has been a physician for 40 years.

He played baseball for 40 years, and said that certain procedures can be utilized in baseball to stem the tide of influenza and other germs.

“At a hospital, doctors are expected to use sanitizing gel on their hands before going into a room and then once again when they come out,” said McReynolds.

“Why not do the same on baseball fields or hitting facilities? You could have a Purell Hand Sanitizer Dispenser near the dugout or by the door of each batting cage in a hitting facility. As players come in, they are asked to sanitize their hands. Once practice is over, they can sanitize their hands as they leave.

“It wouldn’t be a bad idea to have players own their own bat which aren’t touched by other players. Common bats used by multiple players can be wiped down in the handle areas with Chlorox-based wipes prior to practice and after practice and even between hitters during an epidemic.

“Players who are obviously sick should be sent home so they don’t spread germs.

McReynolds said players who are at practice and coughing and sneezing could have the flu or some other influenza like virus, which has also been at epidemic proportions this winter.

“What you don’t want a player to do is cough or wipe his nose in his hand. Instead, coaches should ask players to cough or sneeze into their shirt sleeve and NOT into their hands. Many times people will turn away and cough into their hand. This causes a problem in baseball since the hand will touch baseballs that are utilized by many different players.

“If a hitter coughs or wipes his nose in his hand and grabs a bat, guess what happens? There are now germs all over the place on the bat grip. If someone else uses that bat, they will probably be infected.

“It would be an excellent idea for schools to have hand sanitizers in restrooms. Knobs of doors should be disinfected regularly since many people touch them along with faucets.

“Many viruses can live up to 24 hours on a door handle.

“One more piece of advice I would give is to get a flu shot in the fall prior to the flu season. It takes two weeks for the antibodies to work properly.”

McReynolds said sanitizing baseballs is a possibility but probably impractical.

“You obviously can’t use Clorox-based liquids or similar products on the leather because it would ruin baseballs. Hospitals have been using ultraviolet light to disinfect rooms and equipment for years. But these devices are extremely expensive.”

Power Of Ultraviolet Energy
Collegiate Baseball contacted Melinda Hart of Xenex Disinfection Services of San Antonio, Tex.

This company sells different machines that hospitals across the USA utilize to disinfect rooms.

“UV has been used for disinfection for decades,” said Hart.

“What makes our robots different is their use of pulsed xenon (not mercury bulbs) to create UV-C light.

“Pathogens (like the flu virus, MRSA and norovirus) are vulnerable to UV-C light damage at different wavelengths depending on the organism.

“Xenex’s pulsed xenon lamps produce a flash of full spectrum germicidal light across the entire disinfecting spectrum delivered in millisecond pulses.

“Our robots can easily kill the flu virus. I talked to our science team, and it would be possible to put baseballs in our LightStrike Disinfection Pod ($25,000) and disinfect them in just a couple of minutes. Our robot ($125,000) is inside the Pod that does the work.”

In hospitals, these collapsible, mobile units can be positioned anywhere without disrupting or impeding daily workflow to clean equipment such as ventilators, pressure monitors, wheelchairs, ventilators and mobile imagine machines.

Hart said that several of the hospitals that utilize their robots to clean hospital rooms include MD Anderson and the Mayo Clinic. 

Hart acknowledged the price is steep for the robot and Pod. But not having a disinfected room at a hospital can result in serious consequences for new patients being rolled into them. If they contract a dangerous bacteria that was caused by negligence, the treatment to correct the problem could be extremely expensive.

The easy solution is to kill off the germs so rooms are as close to being sterile as possible.  

There are other companies on the internet that have smaller UV-C lamps, but they don’t utilize xenon technology.

We are not aware of any baseball team that has ever utilized such machines to disinfect baseballs. The cost of these small lamps range from $800 on up.

Sanitation Issues
Sanitation safety is not high on the pecking order with baseball coaches.

Beyond the sanitation problems of bats and balls, a hitter should wear his own helmet instead of sharing it with others.

In addition, the use of shared water bottles by athletes should never be allowed.

Large Igloo coolers filled with water are simple enough to provide with paper cups being utilized for each player and a small trash can supplied to throw the cups in once used.

In October of 2005, Austin Phillips of Tyler Junior College (Tex.) died suddenly of bacterial meningitis.

Phillips pitched two innings for Tyler J.C. on a Thursday evening but didn’t feel well.

He felt he was coming down with the flu. Phillips went to his girlfriend’s home the day after he pitched and felt worse. Then a short time later, he went in and out of consciousness as an ambulance was called.

A few hours later, Phillips went into a coma at Parkland Memorial Hospital in Dallas. Three days later, the once vibrant and athletic baseball player passed away due to this killer disease.

It was determined that 48 people came into contact with Phillips. The health department in Tyler, Tex. ordered each of these individuals to take antibiotics as a precautionary measure.

Can you imagine the potential for disaster if several kids drank from the same water bottle Phillips used?

He isn’t the only baseball player to die of meningitis.

RHP Addie Joss of the Cleveland Bronchos died of tubercular meningitis in April 1911 at the age of 28. He collapsed on the field during spring training and died a few days later.

He had won 160 Major League games which included four 20-win seasons.

Helmets are another area of concern.

When only a few helmets are shared through a team, it is unsanitary and unsafe.

When each player dons a helmet, he adds sweat, body fluids and skin flakes in the helmet and deposits some of the parts onto his own head.

Then coaches usually dump the helmets into a duffel bag and stow the gear away in a hot, closed trunk. It’s a veritable breeding ground for mold spores which at times can be dangerous.

Plus, head lice can travel from player to player quickly if such practices are allowed. Well informed coaches never allow this to happen as each player has his own helmet.

To top it off, players end up wearing helmets that may not fit properly or are so damaged that they provide little protection.

If schools can’t afford individual helmets, it makes sense for players to purchase their own which they can use in practice and games with the same school color and decals added.

Coronavirus Issues
The CDC said there is currently no vaccine to prevent coronavirus. So the best way to prevent illness is to avoid being exposed.

The virus is thought to spread mainly from person-to-person, between people who are in close contact with one another (within about 6 feet) and through respiratory droplets produced when an infected person coughs or sneezes.

Steps to protect yourself from the coronavirus include:

  • Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds, especially after you have been in a public place or after blowing your nose, cough or sneeze.
  • If soap and water are not readily available, use a hand sanitizer that contains at least 60 percent alcohol. Cover all surfaces of your hands and rub them together until they feel dry.
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth with unwashed hands.
  • Avoid close contact with people who are sick.
  • Stay at home if you are sick except to receive medical care.
  • Cover your mouth and nose with a tissue when you cough or sneeze or use the inside of your elbow.
  • Throw used tissues in the trash.
  • Wear a face mask if you are sick and will be around other people.
  • Clean and disinfect frequently touched surfaces daily. The most common EPA-registered household disinfectants will work. Use disinfectants appropriate for the surface.
  • Options include diluting household bleach (5 tablespoons (1/3 cup) bleach per gallon of water or 4 teaspoons bleach per quart of water.