Today the American Society of Registered Nurses announced that cases of MRSA also known as Methicillin - Resistant Staphylococcus aureus often called "Staph" are on the rise.
Most of the cases are connected with strains of bacteria found in healthcare settings such as hospitals, nursing homes and dialysis centers. MRSA that is acquired in a hospital or health care setting is called hospital-based MRSA. In most cases, a person who is already sick or who has a weakened immune system immune system becomes infected with MRSA. These infections can occur in wounds or skin, burns, and IV or other sites where tubes enter the body, as well as in the eyes, bones, heart, or blood.
MRSA has been a problem in hospital and health care settings for years. But this highly drug-resistant bacterium has recently gained increased media attention. The attention is in part because of its role in several deaths among otherwise healthy school-age athletes.
Recent outbreaks of MRSA discovered in schools reveal unsanitary conditions such as those often found in primarily bathrooms and locker rooms are the most common areas where the bacteria have been found to colonize. But the bacteria can spread from these locations if proper hand washing isn't followed.
For example, MRSA infections have become more common in contact sports such as wrestling and football as unsanitary conditions in a locker room have perhaps been spread from one individual to another because of poor hand washing either in the locker room or through subsequent contact on the playing field.
Many people carry the MRSA bacteria without any symptoms of infection. These people are known to be colonized with the bacteria. The bacteria are spread through skin to skin contact, by touching the infected person and then touching someone else.
Community based strains of MRSA infections can manifest as a mild skin infection such as a pimple or boil that is red, swollen and painful. It can drain pus, and a fever usually develops.
Staph type bacteria live on the skin and enter when the skin is broken such as by an incision or injury such as a scratch, cut or deep wound. Usually a staph infection can be cured by using methicillin antibiotics. MRSA is a type of staph bacteria that has mutated and is resistant to these methicillin antibiotics. It can be cured with other antibiotics, but early diagnosis is critical.
Another form of super bug is VRE or vancomycin-resistant Enterococci. Enterococci is a bacteria normally found in the intestines and in the female genital tract. When the number of bacteria rises, or the person's immune system becomes weakened, an infection can result usually in the urinary tract or blood stream. If these bacteria have mutated and become resistant to the antibiotic vancomycin, a super infection can result.
MSRA and VRE have grown into super bugs primarily due to the overuse of methicillin and vancomycin antibiotics. Environmental changes have contributed as well, but over prescribing of antibiotics is the main culprit. This is especially true when antibiotics have been prescribed for viral infections. Viruses do not respond to antibiotics, only bacteria are killed by antibiotics.
In a society where instant gratification has become somewhat the norm, the demand for antibiotics at the first symptom of a cold or flu (usually caused by a virus) has resulted in consequences.
In 1974, MRSA accounted for two percent of all staph infections. In 1995, twenty-two percent of the staph infections were due to MRSA; and by 2004, the number grew to sixty-three percent. With the number of MRSA infections rapidly increasing over the past thirty years, physicians have become more careful in prescribing antibiotics. Still it is up to each of us to take precautions against what can be a fatal super bug.
Here are some of the best ways to prevent MRSA:
- Wash your hands. Use soap and water or an alcohol-base hand sanitizer. Also, wash thoroughly. Experts suggest that you wash your hands for as long as it takes you to recite the alphabet.
- Cover cuts and scrapes with a clean bandage. This will help the wound heal. It will also prevent you from spreading bacteria to other people.
- Do not touch other people's wounds or bandages.
- Do not share personal items like towels or razors. If you use any shared gym equipment, wipe it down before and after you use it. Dry clothes, sheets, and towels in a dryer rather than letting them air dry. This helps kill bacteria.