What is MRSA and is it serious? MRSA or Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus is a type of staph bacteria. It is tougher to treat than most strains of staph because it is resistant to some commonly used antibiotics, thus it is often called a “super bug.”
MRSA can cause infections in different parts of the body creating symptoms such as mild infections on the skin, like sores and boils or more serious skin infections such as in surgical wounds, the bloodstream, the lungs, or the urinary tract.
Though most MRSA infections aren’t serious, some can be life-threatening.
What causes MRSA? Staph is a very common bacterium that about 1 out of 3 people have on their skin or in their nose. Two in one hundred carry the drug-resistant kind, MRSA. Usually, this isn’t a problem. Plenty of healthy people carry staph without being infected by it.
But staph can be a problem if it manages to get into the body, often through a cut or sore. Once there, it multiplies and causes an infection. Staph is one of the most common causes of skin infections. These infections are usually minor and don’t need special treatment.
If a skin infection has abscessed, it would need to be surgically drained and treated with antibiotics. However, because, over the decades, some strains of staph—like MRSA—have become resistant to antibiotics that once destroyed it, only certain antibiotics can now be used as treatment
Who can get a MRSA infection? Anyone can get MRSA through direct contact with an infected wound or by sharing personal items, such as towels or razors that have touched infected skin. MRSA is commonly spread from the hands of someone who has MRSA. This could be anyone in a health care setting or in the community. MRSA is usually not spread through the air like the common cold or flu virus, unless a person has MRSA pneumonia and is coughing.
What are MRSA symptoms? Symptoms depend on where the infection is. Most skin infections appears as a bump or infected area on the skin that might be red, swollen, painful, warm, full of pus, accompanied by fever.
If you have these symptoms, cover the area with a bandage, wash your hands, and contact your doctor, especially if you have a fever. If you have MRSA pneumonia, you may develop a cough.
What can we do about a MRSA infection? MRSA exists in our environment and on our skin. We can’t change that fact. We can, however, minimize our chances of becoming infected by washing our hands with soap and water regularly, maintain good hygiene practices, by avoiding sharing of personal items, by keeping any wounds cleaned and covered, and by periodically disinfecting counter tops, shelves, and any equipment like phones or sports equipment. ( To disinfect, use 1.5 teaspoons of 6% bleach to a pint of water in a spray bottle .)
If you are told you have a MRSA infection, you can prevent transmission to others by thorough hand washing, keeping wounds covered and disposing of wound dressings into a closed container, washing clothing and linens as they are soiled, avoiding contact sports or swimming until the wound is healed, and following your healthcare provider’s treatment advice.
Dr. Frank James, San Juan County Public Health Officer states, "While MRSA is very scary sounding, few people die from the infection when properly treated. Common sense actions like properly disposing of contaminated dressings and good hand washing effectively prevent transmission."
The chance of one getting MRSA from another person who has MRSA is very low. To decrease the chance of getting MRSA you both should wash hands and follow preventive precautions.
You can call the San Juan County Public Health Department if you have any concerns or comments, 360-378-4474.
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