What is MRSA? You've probably seen the recent headlines about this menacing "super bug" ravaging through hospitals, gyms, and even schools.
MRSA stands for methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus. This is a fancy way of saying that an MRSA staph infection is resistant to most antibiotics, and thus, harder to treat.
The important thing to remember is that MRSA isn't new. The threat has been around for many years, but a recent report from the American Medical Association highlighted the number of deaths it caused in 2005 (nineteen thousand). That report, combined with the untimely death of a 17-year-old student due to the infection, sparked fear in the hearts of many parents and hospital patients.
One of the reasons many cases of MRSA go untreated is that the symptoms are fairly common among several other illnesses. Some of the most common MRSA symptoms are simply flu-like in nature or, in some cases, red pimples or boils that seem to last longer than they should.
Still, if you feel you may have been exposed to the bacteria, you should visit your doctor immediately at the first sign of any trouble. If caught early enough, almost every case is fully treatable.
Of course, the best way to deal with MRSA is to simply prevent it in the first place. And, it's actually easier than you might expect:
- Wash your hands. It seems easy enough, and you've been hearing it since you were a kid, but it really is one of the most effective ways to prevent MRSA, in addition to several other illnesses.
"It is not glamorous but it is very true — hand hygiene is by far the best means to prevent the spread of all diseases," said Dr. Arjun Srinivasan, an epidemiologist at the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
- Cover up. Cover all scrapes, cuts, or any other open wounds with bandages and/or band-aids. If MRSA makes its way into your bloodstream, that's when it can quickly become potentially fatal.
- Ban the barefoot. If you frequent your local gym locker room, be sure to wear sandals (even in the showers). This will help keep your feet from coming in direct contact with bacteria others may have left in your path.
- Wipe it down. Always carry a towel with you when you workout, so you can wipe down any equipment that others may have inconsiderately left sweaty.
Nearly every case of MRSA is spread by direct contact, rather than through the air, which is why good hygiene is the most important and effective way to stay healthy.
Have you or anyone you know been infected by MRSA?