Commonly known as MRSA, Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus is a staph bacterium often (but not always) contracted in medical facilities, deeming it a super bug because it is resistant to many antibiotics. What a mouthful! No wonder they had to come up with an acronym! According to the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIH), in recent years, MRSA has evolved from a controllable nuisance into a serious health concern. Most MRSA infections are confined to the skin or in the nose. However, the infection can also burrow deep into the body, causing life-threatening infections in the bones, joints, bloodstream, heart valves, lungs, and at surgical incision sites. It can even lead to pneumonia. I am against anything “burrowing into” my body.
According to the MRSA Survivors’ Network, more Americans die each year from invasive MRSA infections than from HIV/AIDS or H1N1 flu. MRSA was first discovered in 1961, and is resistant to methicillin, amoxicillin, penicillin, oxacillin, and many other common antibiotics. I am resistant to cats in much the same way. The bug constantly adapts and changes, which leaves researchers hard pressed to keep up. Although approximately two percent of the population has MRSA on their skin, not everyone suffers ill effects from its presence. Troubling infections are most common among people who have weak immune systems. I was alarmed to discover that MRSA can even affect dogs.
MRSA infections are transmitted from person to person by direct contact with the skin, clothing, or area (for example, sink, bench, bed, and utensil) that had recent physical contact with a MRSA-infected person. Workers who are in frequent contact with MRSA and staph-infected people and animals are most at risk of contracting a MRSA-related staph infection. These include employees who work in healthcare, corrections, daycare, or veterinary medicine-related fields. However, alarmingly, MRSA has started appearing in healthy people who have not been hospitalized. This type of MRSA is called community-associated MRSA, or CA-MRSA.
The good news (Finally!) is that Congress recognizes the threat to public health, approving $160 million in new funding to the CDC in fiscal year 2016, to combat antibiotic-resistant bugs. With the funding, the CDC will:
- accelerate outbreak detection and prevention in every state;
- enhance tracking of resistance mechanisms and resistant infections;
- support innovative research to address current gaps in knowledge; and
- improve antibiotic use.
Most staph skin infections, including MRSA, appear as a bump or infected area on the skin that might be:
- Warm to the touch
- Full of pus or other drainage
- Accompanied by a fever
The CDC suggests taking these personal hygiene steps to reduce your risk of contracting a MRSA infection:
- Maintain good hand and body hygiene. Hand washing remains one of the easiest, most effective ways to prevent the spread of any and all germs.
- Keep cuts, scrapes, and wounds clean and covered until healed.
- Avoid sharing personal items such as towels and razors.
- Seek medical attention early if you suspect you might have an infection.
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