MRSA is a term many people have heard but know little about. MRSA stands for Methicillin-Resistant Staphylococcus Aureus. It is known as a ‘super-bug’ to many healthcare professionals. Staphylococcus Aureus is a type of bacteria that can be found on the skin and in the nasal passages of anyone at any age. Although it usually does not cause a problem, staph aureus can cause infections in various parts of the body. It can cause pneumonia (lung), endocarditis (heart), wound infections (abscess).
Staphylococcus aureus spreads very easily. Infections caused by this bacteria that are left untreated, especially in the very young, very old, and immunocompromised, can turn into an overwhelming blood infection (sepsis) and even death. Staph Aureus is one of the most commonly spread bacterias in the community. It can be spread to anyone with a break in the skin.
Over time, bacterias change and evolve to adapt to treatments that are used to kill them. Staph Aureus is no different. In the late 1950’s, a penicillin called methicillin was first used to treat this specific bacteria.
By the early 1960’s, staph aureus had adapted and methicillin was no longer effective. By the late 1960’s the methicillin-resistant staph aureus (MRSA) was breaking out in hospitals worldwide.
By the 1990’s MRSA was out of the hospital and in the communities being found in remote areas and in people without hospital exposure. According to the CDC, the rate of life-threatening healthcare-associated MRSA is decreasing, although it is still a public health concern. 1 in 3 people are carriers of MRSA, with 2 in 100 having active MRSA.
There are two general types of MRSA:
Symptoms of MRSA
Initially, MRSA may appear as a harmless pimple or insect bite. Over time that ‘pimple‘ changes and will become a larger bump filled with pus and purulent drainage. Other symptoms include:
- Pain/tender to the touch
How is MRSA Diagnosed?
Diagnosing MRSA takes a trip to the doctor where the signs and symptoms are reviewed and a culture of the suspected area is obtained.
Who Is At Risk?
MRSA can be spread to anyone with a break in the skin, but there are certain groups that are at higher risk for acquiring MRSA; mainly those who live, work or play in close contact with others. This includes:
- People in prisons or the military (close contact living)
- Patrons and workers in gymnasiums
- Those who play contact and team sports
- Children and workers in schools and daycares
- People with open wounds
- People who share toiletries
What these people have in common is their opportunity by choice or necessity to share items, have direct skin-to-skin contact, and/or touch contaminated items or surfaces.
How is MRSA Treated?
MRSA treatments are based on the area involved and clinical presentation. Depending on the severity, skin wounds are often opened and drained. Other antibiotics are used to help combat the staph aureus infection. In severe cases, the antibiotics may be administered intravenously; less severe cases may be prescribed oral medications. Medications may also be given to treat the other symptoms such as fever. Any open wounds will be cleaned and covered (dressings changed as needed) until the area is totally healed.
How Can We Prevent The Spread of MRSA?
- Know the risks
- Handwashing is most effective
- Do not share items with others
- Clean surfaces with germicides (such as bleach)
- Clean and cover all wounds until healed
- Wear gloves when necessary
- if coming into contact with body fluids, or potentially contaminated skin or items
- Do NOT pick wounds
- Wash your hands after handling dirty laundry
- Wash new clothes before wearing
- Seek medical advice or evaluation early
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The information in this article is to be used for informational purposes only. It is NOT to be used in place of, or in conjunction with, professional medical advice. Anyone with questions regarding this or other medical issues discussed on this site must consult their physician for further information and treatment.
Personal knowledge and experience