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MRSA: What Can Be Done About It?

There is a lot of fear and speculation that revolves around an MRSA infection. MRSA stands for "methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus," which is a specific strain of bacteria. Staphylococcus aureus, typically just referred to as "staph," is actually a very common germ that can be found on almost everyone's skin. In most cases, it doesn't have any effect on the person, and he or she may never know that it's there.

In a small number of cases, the staph germs can cause skin or blood infections, and this is when a person should seek medical treatment. While a staph infection is a medical issue that should be handled carefully, it's important for people to understand that it is not often life-threatening like they may believe.

Much of the fear and paranoia that surround the issue stems from the fact that a MRSA infection is much harder to treat than similar types of infections. This is because certain strains of the bacteria are resistant to some of the most commonly prescribed antibiotics.

About MRSA

Staph infections are generally treated with certain types of antibiotics. In most situations, this is enough to get rid of the infection. However, despite the fact that MRSA is a type of staph infection, it doesn't respond to antibiotics in the same way, which makes it more difficult to treat.

People who are immunocompromised or have recently stayed in a hospital are most susceptible to MRSA, but it's important to understand that anyone can potentially get this type of infection. It is typically spread by contact with someone who has MRSA bacteria on his or her skin. This can be from direct contact or by touching contaminated linens, fixtures or medical equipment. The good news is that MRSA infections are treatable, but they require close supervision by a medical provider.

Frequently Asked Questions

Q: What are the symptoms of MRSA?

A: Because MRSA is a type of staph infection, many of the symptoms will be the same. These infections start out as red bumps on the skin that are swollen and painful, similar to deep pimples or spider bites. Other warning signs include the following:

  • Bumps that are warm to the touch
  • Spots that ooze pus or fluid
  • Bumps accompanied by fever

If left untreated, these bumps can quickly turn into deep abscesses that must be drained by a surgeon. In the worst cases, the infection can take root in the body and spread to the bones, joints, lungs, heart and bloodstream.

Q: Who is most susceptible to contracting MRSA?

A: It's possible for anyone of any age to contract a MRSA infection, but it's most common in the following groups of people:

  • Those who participate in contact sports
  • Populations in crowded conditions, such as military camps and jails
  • Elderly people residing in a nursing facility
  • Anyone with an invasive medical device, such as a catheter or IV line

Q: How is the infection transmitted?

A: As mentioned above, MRSA is generally transmitted by human contact. The bacteria flourish at temperatures very close to those of a healthy human body, so it's unfortunately easy for it to spread.

Because of the ease with which it can be transmitted, those with weakened immune systems and people staying in hospitals are the most susceptible, so doctors recommend diligent cleanliness and precautions such as wearing gloves and disposable hospital gowns whenever there's a risk of MRSA transmission.

Q: What are the treatment options for MRSA?

A: Treatment depends on the severity of the infection. In a majority of cases, MRSA infections are treated with specific strains of antibiotics that have proven to be effective against that particular bacteria.

There are some cases where antibiotics are unnecessary, however. Sometimes, a doctor will only need to drain an abscess caused by MRSA if it's shallow enough. The most important factor of treatment is that it occurs as quickly as possible once an infection is suspected.

Q: Are pets and family members at risk of contracting MRSA?

A: If a person has an active MRSA infection, both pets and people who live in close proximity to that person are at risk of contracting MRSA as well. It's absolutely vital for the infected person as well as everyone in the household to be diligent about cleanliness and disinfecting until the infection has completely cleared up.

To minimize risk of spreading MRSA to humans, do not share personal items or leave contaminated objects laying out. Linens and clothing should be frequently washed, and any medical waste should be well-wrapped and disposed of carefully. For the safety of pets and people, it's recommended to wear disposable gloves and use a bleach solution to disinfect hard surfaces.


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