DHI Media Staff Writer

According to a study by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) invasive MRSA — methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus — infections beginning in hospitals have declined by 54 percent between 2005 and 2011, with 30,800 fewer severe MRSA infections. In addition, the study showed 9,000 fewer deaths in hospital patients in 2011 versus those in 2005.

The CDC reports roughly one in three people carry staph, which is usually found on the skin or in the nose and two in 100 people carry MRSA. Most of the time, these germs don’t pose a health threat. But MRSA — a staph bacteria that is resistant to antibiotics — can cause life-threatening infections.

Allen County Health Department Director of Nursing Becky Dershem said germs live everywhere on the human body, it’s when they find their way into other atypical areas of the body that they become a problem.

“When someone is ill and prescribed antibiotics, sometimes they do not finish the course of medication (they save some for later),” Dershem said. “So, the bacteria mutates from the medication and the human becomes the perfect incubator for the new strain of bacteria. People need to follow their prescription and take all their medications.”

Developing a MRSA infection in a healthcare settings, is referred to as hospital-acquired MRSA (HA-MRSA) and is spread by medical staff and equipment to patients. The bacteria can cause surgical site infections with the potential of moving into the bloodstream or organs causing infections in the bone marrow, septic shock and multiple organ failure.

“Hospital’s have been very aggressive with active hand washing campaigns and use of hand sanitizer,” Dershem explained. “The healthcare community has become much more discreet with antibiotic prescriptions.”

Staph bacteria can be spread simply through skin-to-skin contact, which is known as community-associated MRSA (CA-MRSA). The CDC reports that often, people first think the area is a spider bite; however, unless a spider is actually seen, the irritation is likely not a spider bite. Most staph skin infections, including MRSA, appear as a bump or infected area on the skin that might be red; swollen; painful; warm to the touch; full of pus or other drainage; or accompanied by a fever.

Anyone can get MRSA through direct contact with an infected wound or by sharing personal items, such as towels or razors, that have touched infected skin. MRSA infection risk can be increased when a person is in certain activities or places that involve crowding, skin-to-skin contact and shared equipment or supplies. This might include those involved in athletics, daycare or school, military personnel in barracks, and people who recently received inpatient medical care.

“In the sports arena, athletes are cautious about body piercing and tattoos in the middle of the season,” Dershem said. “Schools have done a great job with cleaning procedures to reduce the number of infections.”

There are the personal hygiene steps people can take to reduce the risk of MRSA infection. First, wash hands often and clean body regularly, especially after exercise. Second, keep cuts, scrapes, and wounds clean and covered until they are healed.Also avoid sharing personal items such as towels and razors. Above all get care early if you think you might have an infection.

“If you or someone in your family experiences these signs and symptoms, cover the area with a bandage, wash your hands and contact your doctor right away,” Dershem said. “This is an aggressive germ.”

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