MRSA (methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus)

There has been much news recently about MRSA (pronounced mur-sa) infections and I would like to help alleviate some unjust fears by focusing on how we can protect ourselves without feeling panicked. In healthcare, we have dealt with MRSA infections in the hospital setting for many years but the emergence in the general community is relatively new. One reason for this newfound prevalence is the indiscriminate use of antibiotics by physicians resulting in more and more resistant strains of bacteria. These ?mutant? bacteria develop ways to resist the effects of some antibiotics such as methicillin (a relative of penicillin), hence the name.

Staphylococcus aureus, simply called ?staph?, are bacteria usually carried on the skin or in the nose of healthy people. Sometimes, staph can cause an infection most commonly of the skin (pimples and boils). However, staph can also cause serious infections such as surgical wound infections, bloodstream infections and pneumonia. Both staph and MRSA (a specific type of staph) are most frequently transmitted by direct skin-to-skin contact. You can protect yourself from infections simply by practicing good hygiene.

1. Keep your hands clean by washing thoroughly with soap and water (preferably) or by using an alcohol-based hand sanitizer.
2. Keep cuts and scrapes clean and covered with a bandage until healed.
3. Avoid contact with other people?s wounds or bandages.
4. Avoid sharing personal items such as towels or razors.

According to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) students with MRSA infections should not be excluded from attending school unless directed by a physician. Exclusion from school should be reserved for those individuals with wound drainage (?pus?) that cannot be covered and contained with a clean, dry bandage and for those who cannot maintain good personal hygiene as described above. Those with active infections should avoid activities where skin?to?skin contact is likely to occur, such as most sports, until infections are healed.

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