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The “super bug” MRSA continues to remain an important and dangerous issue both in our hospitals and in our community. MRSA, methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus bacteria, is a strain of staph that’s resistant to the broad-spectrum antibiotics commonly used to treat it. MRSA infections usually begin as small red bumps that resemble pimples, boils, or spider bites which can sometimes turn into deep, painful abscesses that require surgical draining. The bacteria may remain confined to the skin, but can also be more dangerous and penetrate into the body, causing life-threatening infections in bones, joints, surgical wounds, the bloodstream, heart valves, and lungs. MRSA can also be fatal.

Staph bacteria can commonly be found on the skin or in the nose in about one-third of the population. These bacteria are normally harmless unless they enter the body through a cut or other wound. For the most part these infections only cause minor skin problems in healthy people; however they can cause serious illness in older adults and those with weakened immune systems. Although the endurance of bacteria contributes to antibiotic resistance, our society is to blame for most of the problem. Primary causes of antibiotic resistance include: unnecessary antibiotic use, antibiotics in food and water, and germ mutation. Antibiotics continue to be prescribed for viral infections like the cold and flu and simple bacterial infections that normally absolve on their own.

Risk factors for community-associated MRSA include: young age: participating in contact sports; sharing towels or athletic equipment; having a weakened immune system; living in crowded or unsanitary conditions; and association with health care workers. Community-associated MRSA can be very dangerous for children because their immune systems aren’t fully developed or they don’t yet have the antibodies to common germs. Risk factors for health care-associated MRSA include: a current or recent hospitalization; living in a long term care facility; invasive devices; and recent antibiotic use. It is estimated that 46 out of every 1,000 people hospitalized are infected with MRSA, according to a 2007 report from the Association for Professionals in Infection Control and Epidemiology.

Medical advice should be looked into when minor skin problems appear to be infected. Signs and symptoms of a wound infection include redness, warmth, and tenderness of the wound; pus; and a fever. MRSA is diagnosed by checking a tissue sample or nasal secretions for signs of drug-resistant-bacteria. Both hospital- and community-associated strains of MRSA can still be treated with certain medications. The most commonly used antibiotic is vancomycin.

Hospitals track bacterial outbreaks to reduce the spread of MRSA, but the best way for health care workers to prevent the spread of germs would be to wash hands frequently and properly disinfect hospital surfaces and devices. The following precautions will help to protect you from MRSA in the community: wash hands; keep personal items personal; keep wounds covered; shower after athletic games and practices; sanitize linens; get tested for MRSA; and use antibiotics appropriately.

It can be hard to track the spread of MRSA and exactly how one was infected. If you believe that you or someone that you love has been affected by MRSA, please contact us immediately.

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