Answers For YOUR Health

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MRSA Skin Infection

Preventable Epidemic

 MRSA stands for Methicillin-Resistant Staphylococcus Aureus.

The fact that people can and do die from MRSA skin infections which are easily spread, alarms a lot of people including parents and school officials. MRSA can be a life-threatening infection if it spreads to the internal organs. The seriousness of the infection and the fact that it is resistant to most antibiotics is what scares people the most. We are used to a quick visit to the doctor for a shot of some antibiotic that cures all.

This is not a new superbug.  The first cases of MRSA were reported in 1961 -- over 40 years ago.  The truly scary thing is that it is a growing threat, spreading worldwide and silently infecting people every day. The growth of MRSA depended on doctors treating everything with an antibiotic.  That produced the superbug strain that is resistant to methicillin.

The common symptoms of a MRSA skin infection are the appearance of cellulitis, boils or abscesses, a sty on the eye, carbuncles or impetigo. A fever, chills, low blood pressure, joint pains, headaches that are severe in nature, experiencing shortness of breath, and the appearance of a rash all over the body are all symptoms of MRSA that require immediate medical attention.

However, having these symptoms does not mean you have an MRSA skin infection. Confirming a staph skin infection will require a visit to your doctor or possibly the emergency room if you are experiencing a high fever. You may have come in contact with other contagious skin infections and you may be spreading them yourself.

If you have an open cut, scratch, or cracked dry skin, you can become infected by having physical contact with someone who is already infected with MRSA. Another way to become infected with the MRSA skin infection is to come into contact with an object that was touched by someone with MRSA.

Those objects can be door handles, sinks, towels, bed linens, newspapers and books. Simple things like the handle on your shopping cart or the nozzle on a gas pump or the cell phone you shared with a friend can be the source of an MRSA skin infection.

MRSA is becoming more common among groups of people like school sport teams, dormitory residents, and military personnel because all these individuals live, work or play in close contact with each other and are likely to share objects.

Other individuals who are at high risk for MRSA are those who have skin breaks (surgical patients, those with IV's, burn patients and those with skin ulcers). That is why your local hospital and doctor's office are such scary places to visit.  You want to be sure your health care givers are washing their hands on each visit.  If you are visiting someone in the hospital, wash your hands on entering the room and on leaving.

Anyone who works in the public must be aware of contagious skin infections. 

Health care workers have an increased exposure risk because they come into contact with patients with infections on a daily basis. They at least have the knowledge that they are dealing with infections.  Store clerks, teachers, food servers, repair people and fire and police personnel come into contact with possible contagious skin infections daily.  For these people the focus is not on health but their immediate job. 

Consider the repair person who skins a knuckle during the job.  Open wound.  He hands the home owner a pen to sign the receipt.  The home owner has a contagious skin infection and passes the bacteria to the pen and thus to the repair person who passes it on to the next person to use the pen.

Washing your hands is still the best preventative medicine for MRSA skin infections.

Parents should teach children how to clean their hands properly and when to clean them. 

Clean all scrapes, cuts and abrasions and apply antiseptic cream and a band-aid to prevent dirt and germs from entering the wound.

Most stores have wipes available to clean shared surfaces like shopping cart handles. It only takes a moment to use the wipe and prevent the spread of germs.

Older people with thin skin that tears at the slightest pressure must be aware of contagious skin infections.  All wounds no matter how small should be covered until they heal.

The best way to overcome both the fear of the infection and the infection itself, is to gain knowledge about both prevention and treatment. Learning about how MRSA is contracted and spread, can help individuals to avoid situations where they would be exposed to the MRSA infection.


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