Thursday, November 06, 2008

Public Service Announcement - MRSA

Many of you know that I'm a nursing student at the moment. As a result, I have weekly clinicals where I work in a hospital caring for patients. This quarter has been an especially tough one for me, because so far I've had four patients with MRSA - methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus. You may not have heard of this bacteria, so let me explain.

Our bodies are covered with Staph bacteria. It's even in our noses, too. Sure, it sounds creepy, but most of the time Staph bacteria is harmless to us. Most of the time our bodies keep it in check, but when given a weakened environment and an entrance, it can overgrow and make us sick. When this happens, we often require antibiotics to clear up the infection.

However, due to the overuse and misuse of antibiotics, some bacteria are becoming resistant to many antibiotics, creating these superbugs that are hard to kill. MRSA is one of these antibiotic-resistant bacteria, and it is becoming the new epidemic in healthcare. There are two ways to acquire MRSA, either in the community or in a hospital setting. Hospital MRSA infections are, sadly, often caused by poor handwashing by healthcare workers. Community MRSA infections are most often spread through public places like gyms, schools, daycare centers, and even our households.

A MRSA infection on your skin looks like a pimple, abscess, boil, or spider bite that doesn't go away. They're usually red, warm, swollen and painful. If you think you or a family member has a MRSA infection, see your doctor right away. Special, more powerful antibiotics are required to treat this infection. The treatment is often longer than a standard treatment, and in those who already aren't healthy, the infection can be life-threatening. More than 19,000 Americans die of MRSA each year.

MRSA is spread by contact, so it is important to remember a few basic tips to keep yourself and your family safe. These tips are provided by Stop MRSA Now:

  • Scrub up - Wash hands frequently with soap and warm water for at least 15 seconds or use an alcohol-based hand rub sanitizer.

  • Wipe it down - Use a disinfecting bleach solution to wipe down and disinfect hard surfaces. (1 tablespoon of disinfecting bleach diluted in 1 quart of water)

  • Cover your cuts - Keep any nicks or wounds covered with a clean, dry bandage until healed.

  • Keep to yourself - Do not share personal items, like towels or razors, that come into contact with bare skin.

  • Use a barrier - Keep a towel or clothing between skin and shared equipment.
At the hospital, any patient who is suspected of having MRSA is put on contact precautions, meaning that anyone going into their room is required to put on a full gown and gloves, along with washing hands when leaving the room. I follow all of these guidelines carefully, not only to prevent transmission between patients, but also to make sure that I don't put myself or my family at risk.

To learn more about MRSA and how to keep your family safe, visit the Stop MRSA Now website.

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