What is MRSA?
Staphylococcus aureus, often referred to as “staph”, is a common type of bacteria that can live harmlessly on the skin or in the nose of up to 35 percent of healthy people. Occasionally, staph can cause an infection. Staph bacteria are one of the most common causes of skin infection in the United States, but most of these infections are minor, such as pimples or boils. The majority of these infections can be treated without antibiotics, however, some staph infections can cause serious infections, such as pneumonia, bloodstream, bone, and joint infections, and surgical wound infections.
In the past, most serious bacterial staph infections were treated with a certain type of antibiotic related to penicillin. In recent years, treatment of these staph infections has become more difficult because some staph bacteria have become resistant to various antibiotics. These resistant bacteria are commonly referred to as “Superbugs” or MRSA (Methicillin-resistant staphylococcus aureus). The two primary classifications of MRSA are HA-MRSA, Hospital Acquired – contracted while either staying in or visiting a hospital or medical facility, and CA-MRSA, Community Acquired – communicable from a number of viable sources in the community.
Who gets MRSA?
Staph infections, including MRSA, have been traditionally associated with outbreaks in healthcare facilities, although in recent years, they are becoming increasingly common among high school, college and professional athletes participating in close contact sports (like football, wrestling, lacrosse etc.). Anyone, including coaches, staff and family members, who comes in direct physical contact or who touches contaminated objects or surfaces is susceptible to infection as well. Methods of exposure include touching, using and/or sharing sheets, towels, cloths, equipment, dressings, personal items, bar soap, lockers, etc. that have been used by someone who has staph and/or MRSA, along with poor hygiene habits (e.g. hand washing, showering, etc.).
What does MRSA look like?
Staph/MRSA usually starts out looking like some type of skin or soft tissue infection such as pimples, abscesses, boils, or spider bites. Some can be red, swollen, painful, and/or have pus or other drainage. These raised red bumps may be confused with insect bites initially, and may also be associated with existing turf burns and abrasions.
What to do if you suspect you have MRSA?
Without proper care, more serious infections may cause pneumonia, bloodstream, bone, joint infections, and/or surgical wound infections or even death. If anyone has what looks like staph or MRSA, seek medical attention as soon as possible for evaluation. It might be nothing, but then again, it might be a serious infection. Always err on the side of safety and seek medical advice.
How is MRSA transmitted?
Most MRSA infections are transmitted by skin-to-skin contact, but can also be transmitted through touching contaminated surfaces. Typically, there must be a break in the skin for infection to occur, such as: rug, turf, mat, or razor burns, cuts, scrapes, burns, and chapped skin. MRSA is NOT transmitted by coughing or sneezing (droplets).
Usually the colony count on a contaminated surface decreases after 24 hours, but under certain conditions MRSA bacteria can survive on hard, inanimate surfaces from a few days to a month.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) states MRSA can be acquired from close or over-crowded living conditions, skin-to-skin contact, compromised skin or body fluids, contaminated frequently touched surfaces, and from a lack of personal hygiene.
How to prevent MRSA?
Although treatable, there can be complications associated with MRSA infections, making prevention the best line of defense in combating these infections. The CDC suggests a number of ways to prevent staph and/or MRSA skin infections:
First and foremost, practice good hand hygiene by washing hands frequently and in a thorough manner with soap and warm water. When soap and warm water are not available, use an antimicrobial hand sanitizer.
Secondly, shower with hot water and wash with liquid antibacterial or antimicrobial hand soap (NOT BAR SOAP) following all vigorous activities. Do not share towels, sports equipment, clothing, razors, or bar soap, and use a barrier (clothing or towel) between your skin and equipment that must be shared.
Next, clean and properly cover any open wounds such as turf burns, abrasions, lacerations, cuts, etc. If you have an open wound, do not use hydrotherapy pools, whirlpools, hot tubs, spas, cold tubs, and/or swimming pools.
Furthermore, do not ignore skin infections, pimples, abscesses, abrasions, lacerations, cuts, pustules, etc. Report these to a Sports Medicine staff member and/or a physician immediately.
And finally, disinfect all hard surfaces, sports equipment, and other frequently touched, non-porous surfaces using SpectraSan 24™ before and after use. SpectraSan 24 contains a new patented, silver based technology that simply…
- Kills germs 20 times faster than traditional disinfectants.
- Kills standard indicator bacteria in just 30 seconds.
- Kills HA-MRSA and CA-MRSA in just 2 minutes.
- Continues to kill bacteria and provide residual surface protection for 24 hours.
- Has the lowest toxicity rating assigned by the EPA (Category IV).
- Recommended for use on children’s toys and in childcare environments.
- Does not contain bleach, alcohol, solvents, or other harsh chemicals.
- Possesses more than 200 worldwide patents.
- Odorless, colorless, economical and ready-to-use.
Community-Acquired MRSA Becoming More Common in Pediatric ICU Patients
Johns Hopkins Children’s Center