MRSA – What You Need to Know About This Superbug
Recent outbreaks of MRSA, an especially virulent staph infection that can be fatal, have left many people worried about this “superbug” and how they can protect themselves and their children. Below you’ll find questions and answers about MRSA as well as tips for reducing your risk of infection.
What is MRSA?
Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus, or MRSA, is a variation of the Staphylococcus bacteria that has developed a strong resistance to common antibiotics.
Why is it so dangerous?
MRSA is dangerous because the antibiotics typically used to treat bacterial infections don’t work against it, which makes it very difficult to treat.
Is the number of cases increasing?
A recent study found that the number of MRSA infections is much higher than officials thought, and it appears to be on the rise. The majority of cases continue to be in hospital settings where a concentrated number of sick people make it easy to pass infectious bacteria around. But experts say the infection is starting to spread out into the wider community. Crowded locations such as schools, jails, homeless shelters, locker rooms, and nursing homes are also high-risk areas for contracting MRSA and other infections.
Who is most at risk for contracting MRSA?
Though MRSA can infect anyone, the following groups of people are most likely to contract it:
- people who have been recently hospitalized
- the elderly
- the very young
- those with compromised immune systems
- people who play contact sports
- intravenous drug users
How do people get MRSA?
Like any bacterial infection, MRSA is passed through physical contact, either from person to person or person to an object, like a towel or a piece of sports equipment.
How is MRSA diagnosed?
The only way to be sure about an MRSA infection is to test the infected tissue. This is a lab test that usually takes a few days.
What is the treatment for MRSA?
Though MRSA is resistant to most antibiotics, there are a few that can still be effective against the infection. When it’s caught early, MRSA treatment is often successful. If it’s not diagnosed, however, it can spread rapidly and cause serious problems, including pneumonia and blood infection.
What are the symptoms of an MRSA infection?
MRSA infection can cause skin infections that look like pimples or boils and are red, swollen, painful, or have pus or other drainage. MRSA infections are often initially misdiagnosed as spider bites.
How can I reduce my chances of contracting MRSA or other infections?
Frequent, thorough hand washing is the absolute best way to reduce the chance of contracting MRSA. You can also reduce the risk of contracting MRSA by
- covering all wounds and abrasions until they heal
- avoiding contact with other people’s cuts, scrapes, and bandages
- not sharing personal items such as towels, razors, sheets, or athletic equipment
- regularly cleaning and disinfecting commonly touched areas such as doorknobs, light switches, remote controls, telephones, keyboards, and refrigerator and cabinet door handles
Should I be concerned if my child plays contact sports?
While it’s true that MRSA can spread quickly in groups of people who play contact sports, carefully following the above guidelines can help prevent the spread of MRSA. Make sure your child knows about the dangers of sharing personal items with teammates and friends, and encourage him to wash his hands frequently before, during, and after practice and games. You may also want to talk with your child’s coach or athletic director about what precautions are being taken to avoid the spread of MRSA.
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