Not many people have heard of Methicillan Resistant Staphylococcus Aureaus, or MRSA, by its full name, though they may have heard of a staph infection. MRSA is a member of the staph family, and can be found on the skin and nasal passages of about a third of the population. On its own, it is harmless, but if it makes its way into an open wound it has the potential to become deadly.MRSA can often be found on people in hospitals and other healthcare facilities. Some patients have a higher risk factor for MRSA, including: patients who are in the hospital for extended periods of time, patients in an intensive care unit or a burn unit, and those who have had surgery. Even patients that have had routine, minor procedures like a catheter can be at risk. The number of people hospitalized for MRSA infections each year may be as many as 100,000.
MRSA can cause everything from abscesses, boils, pneumonia, and bone infections. It can contaminate wounds or surgery incisions. It often starts as a local infection, but when introduced into the blood stream can rapidly spread elsewhere in the body. Symptoms can range from mild skin irritation to fever or chills to symptoms associated with more severe infections.
Luckily, MRSA can be prevented. It is usually spread through skin contact, so following proper hygiene precautions can dramatically reduce the spread of the disease. Using proper hand washing techniques and training of hospital staff can help stop the spread of MRSA almost entirely. At home, avoiding contact with the wounds and contaminated dressings will also help to prevent the spread of infection. If you think that you have been exposed to MRSA, seek medical attention right away. Avoiding getting the proper medical care can cause severe illness or even death.
For proper cleansing, wash your hands thoroughly with an antibacterial soap. Nurses and other hospital staff should thoroughly wash their hands before and after examining patients. Many hospitals will also provide disinfectant gels and sprays in each room. For patients, washing daily with antibacterial soaps and shampoos can help prevent the transfer of bacteria from yourself to friends and family members.
MRSA is highly resistant to traditional antibiotics, but it is not entirely resistant. There are several antibiotics that still work against the bacteria, though it has become resistant to the most commonly used varieties. However, there is concern that if the bacteria continue to mutate it will soon become resistant to all varieties of antibiotics, leading to possible epidemic situations. Research is being done to see if natural alternatives are available to fight the spread of the disease.
MRSA can be prevented if proper hygiene and treatment practices are followed. Alone, it is nothing more than any other harmless bacteria, but allows it to become an infection it can lead to severe illness and death. Knowing what to look for, what your risk factors are, and how to prevent the spread of MRSA can help protect yourself and your loved ones.