Health facilities across the country are reporting that methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureua, commonly known as MRSA, that was once confined to patients in hospitals and long-term care facilities, has rapidly been spreading to the general population.
Frequent victims of MRSA are athletes who share equipment or personal items, such as towels or razors. The staph infection has also been occurring among children in daycare facilities.
Most staph infections occur in people with weak immune systems, such as patients in hospitals or nursing homes.
The bacteria normally lives on the skin and lives harmlessly in the nasal passages of roughly 30 percent of the U. S. population.
Staph can cause infection when it enters the skin through a cut or sore. Infection can also occur when the bacteria moves inside of the body through a catheter or breathing tube.
A 2007 report in Emerging Infectious Diseases, a publication of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), estimated that the number of MRSA infections treated in hospitals doubled nationwide, from approximately 127,000 in 1999 to 278,000 in 2005, while at the same time deaths increased from 11,000 to more than 17,000. Another study led by the CDC and published in the October 17, 2007 issue of The Journal of the American Medical Association estimated that MRSA would have been responsible for 94,360 serious infections and associated with 18,650 hospital stay-related deaths in the United States in 2005. These figures suggest that MRSA infections are responsible for more deaths in the U.S. each year than AIDS.
Staph infections may include a skin abscess, drainage of pus or other fluids from the site, fever, or warmth around the infected area.
Symptoms of a more serious staph infection may include a rash, shortness of breath, fever, chills, chest pain, fatigue, muscle aches, malaise, and headache and could lead to cellulitis, endocarditis, toxic shock syndrome, pneumonia, and blood poisoning. Organ failure and death may result from untreated MRSA infections.
To prevent staph or MRSA skin infections, people should practice good hygiene such as keeping their hands clean, keeping cuts and scrapes clean and covered with a bandage until healed, showering after physical activity, properly cleaning gear and equipment, avoiding contact with other people’s wounds or bandages, consulting your trainer or physician for all active wounds, and avoiding sharing personal items such as towels or razors.
Hands should be washed frequently, especially if visiting someone in a hospital or long-term care facility. Do not share personal items such as towels or razors with another person–MRSA can be transmitted through contaminated items. Cover all wounds with a clean bandage, and avoid contact with other people’s soiled bandages. If you share sporting equipment, clean it first with antiseptic solution.