Resistant staph infection causing health concerns
by St. John’s Lutheran Hospital
October 23, 2007
Editor’s Note: The article below is excerpted from a media release about a “new infection”, Methacillin Resistant Staphylococcus aureas (MRSA), which is in getting increasing national attention in the news. This article provides basic information about MRSA. If you have any specific questions about individual concerns, discuss them with your healthcare provider. Article courtesy St. John’s Lutheran Hospital, Libby, Montana.
Staphylococcus areaus is a common bacteria, often called “staph”, that can cause mild to severe infections of the skin, lungs, bones and blood. People can have staph germs on their skin normally. Infections caused by staph were once easily treated with common antibiotics, such as methacillin. However, over the last several years, one type of staph infection has developed a resistance to methacillin (and other antibiotics like it), and therefore has been named MRSA. This germ can affect people in hospitals and long-term care facilities, but can also be spread in the community among healthy children and adults. When not treated properly, MRSA infections can become serious, and can even cause death.
Anyone can get an MRSA infection. However there are factors that make people more likely to develop an MRSA infection including:
• A current or recent stay in a hospital or long-term care facility
• A recent operation or wound treatment
• The elderly
• Having a weakened immune system or serious illness
• Playing contact sports or sharing towels or athletic equipment
• Living or having close contact with someone who has a MRSA infection
MRSA infection is usually spread through direct skin–to–skin contact. People who are otherwise healthy can have MRSA in their noses or on their skin. Even though these individuals are not sick themselves, they can spread the MRSA germs to others. In hospitals and other healthcare settings, MRSA can be spread from infected patients on the hands of healthcare workers or on objects the infected patient may have touched. Outside healthcare settings, MRSA is again usually spread through direct contact through shared towels or athletic equipment, or through close contact with an infected individual.
What does a MRSA infection look like? Frequently, MRSA infections start as small red bumps on the skin that look like pimples or spider bites. These can turn into a more serious infection quickly. MRSA can also start in other ways and it can spread deeper into the body causing infections in bones, muscles, other tissues, the lungs and blood. If you have any concerns about a suspicious skin problem or infection, you need to consult your healthcare provider. You might have samples of blood, urine or infected tissue taken for lab testing to see if it is MRSA. If it turns out that you do have an MRSA infection, treatment is usually an antibiotic that is given through a vein in your arm.
Prevention of MRSA infection is the key, and the single most important thing that everyone can do is good hand washing! Both inside and outside of healthcare settings, washing hands often with soap and water is the number one way to prevent the spread of infections, including MRSA. Using an alcohol-based hand gel cleanser that contains at least 60% alcohol is also a very effective way to eliminate germs.
Other things you should do to help protect yourself include:
• Keep cuts and scrapes clean and covered until they heal
• Avoid contact with the wounds or bandages of others
• Avoid sharing towels, razors, clothing or athletic equipment