germ version 2Because it is flu season and we have not only seasonal flu to worry about, but Swine Flu, as well, I wanted to take a moment to discuss MRSA ( Methicillin-Resisitant Staphylococcus aureus ), an infection that is becoming more predominant in our country.

First of all, let’s talk about plain staphylococcus aureus ( generally known as staph aureus) which is a common germ found on the skin or nose of about 1 in every 3 people.  It usually doesn’t cause any problems in people who have it on their skin, but it can become a serious infection when it gets into a wound, the blood or causes pneumonia.  Antibiotics can be given to treat this kind of infection.

SOME staph infections are resistant to antibiotics though, meaning that they cannot be killed by the antibiotic, and MRSA  is one of those, making it difficult to treat.

It is not an illness,in and of itself, it’s a germ, but  it can CAUSE illnesses that are stubborn to treat. Sometimes it may simply appear as a sore on the skin

In the hospital, people who are admitted with this infection are placed into what we call “contact isolation” meaning that they have their own room and that doctors, nurses and other health care professionals will use gloves and wear a protective gown when working with them.

Sometimes people can get MRSA from being in a hospital or nursing home from unsuspected carriers of this bacteria.  It can be passed on to bed linens, bed rails, bathroom fixtures and medical equipment and of course, hands.  Those who are more likely to get it are those who have been in nursing homes, have received antibiotics frequently or who have other health conditions, so that places our elders at a higher risk.

If you or your care recipient is admitted to the hospital, be sure that your health care providers are washing their hands or using alcohol-based sanitizers before and after touching you or equipment in your room.  You should also wash your hands frequently yourself, especially after walking about the hospital or nursing home.

People who are healthy and have not been hospitalized can also get MRSA but it is less likely.

Can MRSA infections be treated?  Yes, there are antibiotics which are stronger and can kill MRSA germs.  But sometimes, even after a person is treated, they can still be a carrier and you may find that these people will be placed in isolation when re-admitted to the hospital for any reason.

Can friends and family still come to visit a person who carries MRSA?  Yes, the chances of a visitor getting it is very very low.

If you are a caregiver for a person who contracts MRSA or is already a carrier, you should remember to wash your hands often, especially before and after changing any wound dressing or bandage.  Avoid sharing any personal items such as towels or toilet seats.  Wash and dry all clothing in the warmest temperatures recommended on the labels.

Always be sure to tell any health care provider that your care recipient (or you) has MRSA.  This includes home health workers, office staff, therapists or physicians.

Above all, to decrease your chances of contracting or spreading this germ, always remember to ask your health care providers to wash their hands before and after touching you.  Do not be worried about doing this – they will often thank you for it.


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