If you haven’t heard of MRSA (pronounced “mersa”), you’ve probably been living under a rock lately—or just watching more NFL Network than CNN. To bring you up to speed, MRSA is a form of staph infection that recently has been the cause of many deaths nationwide, especially in children. As a result, any time a new case is discovered, it’s getting a lot of media attention. So just what is MRSA? And do we really need to be concerned?
MRSA is a form of staph infection that spreads either through skin-to-skin contact or through skin contact with a shared item… like equipment at the gym or the toys in a day care center. But this is nothing unusual; a lot of diseases spread that way. The thing that makes MRSA dangerous is that is has developed a resistance to common antibiotics. It’s like someone gave it super powers. You can’t just prescribe ten days of amoxicillin and expect it to go away.
There have been a number of reported deaths linked to MRSA, and many of these have been in rather young people, from a teenager in Virginia to a pre-schooler in New Hampshire. A specialist for the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has gone on record stating that MRSA has reached epidemic proportions in some parts of the country. As a result, any time a case of MRSA is found, local news outlets jump on the story, school districs send out letters to parents, and everyone gets a general case of the heebie-jeebies. Is this disease going to be the end of civilization as we know it?
Some perspective: MRSA has been around for years. It has been, and remains, primarily a problem in hospitals, where people with lower immune systems and compromised physical defenses are common. As such, MRSA is not new to the medical community. They know how to diagnose it and they know how to treat it. What is new is that MRSA is spreading more and more in groups that have nothing to do with a hospital. As it is primarily spread through person-to-person contact or in places where people share common objects, schools have become a prime breeding ground.
The good news is that it is easy to protect yourself and your family from MRSA. Simply using good hygiene and common sense will keep the bug from getting to you, and staying healthy will make you much more likely to fight it off on your own if you should happen to come in contact with an infected surface. Here are some basic hygiene tips:
– Wash your hands with soap and water when you’re supposed to (and you know when you’re supposed to). If soap and water aren’t always available, carry a hand-sanitizer in the briefcase or duffel bag and use it often.
– Use a towel or other barrier between your skin and any exercise equipment. Shower immediately after exercising or participating in any group sports. Avoid sharing personal items like towels or razors.
– Keep cuts and abrasions covered until healed—the compromised skin can be a doorway to infection.
– Keep surfaces that are shared with others clean. At work and at home we encounter the things everyone touches… simply maintaining a clean environment will be in everyone’s best interst.
– Use common sense. If skin contact and shared items spread the MRSA bug, avoid those things when possible. When not possible, clean up as soon as you can.
– Help your kids understand the importance of staying clean, teach good hygiene to the very young, and reinforce it all with your own example.
MRSA is a nasty bug and potentially deadly, but there is no need to live in fear. Keeping your head will help you stay focused on what you need to do: practice good hygiene and use common sense. You’re supposed to do that anyway, right? Doing so will put you ahead of the pack and will help you—and your family—stay safe.
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