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MRSA - Methicillin Resistant Staphylococcus Aureus

MRSA and Community Acquired MRSA is on the rise.  This is a staph infection that is resistant against antibiotics in the penicillin family. 

To learn more about MRSA please contact your local health department or you can access information from the following web sites.

Ohio Department of Health- MRSA Information

Center of Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)

Washington State Department of Health-Living With MRSA

OTIS-Staphylococcus Aureus and Pregnancy

MRSA In Long Term Care Facilities

MRSA:  What's It All About- News Article

Everyone is up in arms lately about MRSA.  For those of you who have not heard about it, MRSA stands for Methicillin Resistant Staphylcoccus Aureus.  Now you’re saying “what does that mean?”  This is a germ called staph that is different from a regular staph infection. It does not go away when you take an antibiotic from the methicillin family. Thus, it is called MRSA.   It is treatable though with other types of antibiotics in most cases.  Your physician will know what to do, so don’t hesitate to see him or her if you have a wound or sore that is not healing. 

MRSA has been around since the 1960's.  It started as a hospital-acquired staph infection, resistant to the methicillin family of antibiotics. MRSA affected mostly those who were very sick and did not have a good immune system.  Studies were done to see what has caused this staph to change and spread.  Overuse of antibiotics was one of the things that emerged from the study.  The germ has evolved to resist certain antibiotics. Otherwise, it will not die because it recognizes the antibiotic and walls itself off from letting it penetrate its cell.  The other thing that was learned in these studies is that people who were caring for patients in the hospital weren’t washing their hands between patient-care and were spreading the staph infection to others they cared for.  These studies have been instrumental in the need for health care workers to wear gloves while caring for patients, removing them between each patient and washing hands or using a hand sanitizer between each patient. 

We are now seeing a new evolving staph infection called community-acquired.  This is the staph infection that everyone is talking about.  This staph infection is obtained in the community not the hospital.  It is treatable the same way the hospital acquired staph infection with antibiotics that are not in the methicillin family.  This community acquired staph infection is spread by direct contact with someone who has a MRSA infected wound to someone who has an open wound.  It is also spread by indirect contact by an open wound touching surfaces contaminated by MRSA. 

Now we need to know what to do to prevent the spread.  It is pretty simple.  It’s called good hygiene.  Hand washing is the number one defense against MRSA.  Washing hands with soap and water for a minimum of 20 seconds is essential.  Also, cleaning and disinfecting surfaces regularly and keeping wounds covered until they are healed is essential.  This is the responsibility of the whole community not just the person who has MRSA.  You may be a carrier of MRSA and not know it, and in the future, we may all have it.  It’s not going away.  It is like any other germ, it is one-step ahead of the antibiotic that can kill it.  Our mothers were not wrong when they kept harping on us to wash are hands before we eat or after we got them dirty.

Most of you want to know if your children are safe at school.  The answer is yes.  It is probably safer at school than any other places they go because the school is always being cleaned.  It is not necessary for someone who has MRSA to stay home from school unless their physician orders them to and that only happens if the wound is draining so much that it cannot be  be contained in a dressing.  If the wound is covered it cannot spread anywhere. What about sports? The same goes here for good hygiene and wound coverage.  Another important thing you can do for your children is to educate them.  Teach them good hand washing, keeping their wounds covered until healed and not showing them to others. If they remove their bandage, have it recovered by the school nurse or yourself and to wash their hands and yours after dressing the wound.  One very important thing you can also teach your children is to not share personal items, such as towels, deodorant, razors, lip balm, drinks or anything that has the possibility of spreading germs.  This is important for all germs, not just MRSA.

I hope this cleared up some of your questions about MRSA.  If you have more, don’t hesitate to call your local health department and talk to the infectious disease nurse.  
Linda Bissonette, RN, Infectious Disease Nurse 11/26/07


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