MRSA (pronounced mur-sa) Infection was first discovered in 1961 in the UK and first landed in the United States in 1981. It is a bacterium that causes infections in different parts of the body. Most often it causes mild infections on the skin, causing sores and boils, but it can also infect surgical wounds, the bloodstream, lungs, or even the urinary tract. This type of infection is most common in hospital settings since the bacterium can survive on surfaces and with patients already having a compromised immune system.
Why Is MRSA Dangerous?
MRSA is a type of staph infection, which means that it is primarily spread through skin-to-skin contact. Surprisingly, about 25 per cent of the general population has staph bacteria on their skin. Many of them will never become sick. However, when staph bacteria are exposed to people with weakened immune systems – like hospital patients or the elderly – the infections can quickly become serious.
That being said, normal staph infections don’t often kill people, especially if they are already in the hospital. Since infections are easily treated with antibiotics, a few doses will often be enough to get rid of a staph infection. However, MRSA infections can be deadly because it is resistant to many antibiotics.
Causes And Risk Factors
MRSA is generally spread in one of two ways. Contact with another person who is already colonized can result in one becoming colonized themselves. Also, touching or using items that have the bacteria present on them can end in the same results.
There are several conditions that increase the likelihood of becoming colonized. Hospitals and other health-care environments are the number one cause of the spread of staph and carry a much higher rate of the bacteria being of the MRSA variety as opposed to the more common strain. It is estimated that approximately 60% of all staph infections in these locations are of the resistant type. Also, due to the often delicate state that people’s bodies are in, these infections tend to be more severe.
Other high-risk areas include any place where people live or interact in close quarters together. This includes long-term care facilities, athletic facilities, military barracks, dorms and prisons. People are more likely to develop serious infections if they happen to be undergoing other treatments such as kidney dialysis or cancer treatment. Tattoos and surgeries have also been associated with an increased risk of infection.
Who Is Susceptible To MRSA?
Keep in mind that MRSA rarely infects healthy people. Put simply, it needs a path through which it can easily enter the body. People who are already sick have a number of such paths, like a catheter. Or, if your sickness has left you bedridden for some time, it can enter the body through a bedsore. Like any infection, it can also attack an open wound.
If MRSA is detected early, then it is fairly easy to treat. Fortunately, it’s not resistant to all antibiotics. If you think you have this skin infection, check for common symptoms like red, inflamed skin around a wound. If it has been left undetected for some time, it can manifest itself in more serious symptoms. For example, it can cause urinary tract infections, fever, and headaches. If it progresses even further, then it can lead to pneumonia and toxic shock syndrome, which can eventually cause death.
Symptoms Of MRSA Infection
The symptoms of an infection will vary depending on where it is location. Most cases involve a mild, localized infection that takes place under the surface of the skin. Initial symptoms will usually consist of the skin becoming red, swollen and painful in the afflicted area and may be accompanied by the drainage of fluid or pus. In other cases, sores or boils may appear.
When an infection becomes serious, however, the symptoms become more severe. Some symptoms to keep an eye out for include:
- Chest pains or shortness of breath
- Chills or fever
- Headaches and muscle aches
The most serious of problems are usually a result of the infected individual having a weakened immune system or other health problems.
This can allow an infection to spread into vital bodily systems such as the heart, lungs, bones, blood and urinary tract. Some people may develop pneumonia as a result of this staph infection, which can be life-threatening for those in a poor state of health.
For more information about symptoms, click here.
Treating an MRSA Infection
If symptoms are indicative of a possible infection, a doctor will take cultures to confirm the bacteria’s presence. Since most common antibiotics do not work on MRSA, other measures will be needed to ensure recovery.
Localized, non-serious infections may be curable with simple MRSA treatments, such as draining the infected area and allowing it to heal naturally. Often, non-standard antibiotics can be used the same way regular antibiotics would be on the more common strain of staph. If the infection is particularly persistent, then intravenous antibiotics and hospital care may be the best options available.
How Is It Treated?
Thankfully, death by MRSA is still fairly rare, as we have a few different ways of treating it. What kinds of antibiotics are used to treat it? Certain compounds, like vancomycin (also known as Vancocin) and linezolid (also known as Zyvox) are effective ways to treat the early stages of this infection. In more serious cases, however, antibiotics like:
They may need to be administered intravenously.
Treatment through Prevention
One of the best ways to treat MRSA is to avoid getting infected altogether. Staying clean is key to making sure the bacteria cannot colonize and lie in wait for an opening to appear. Hands should be washed regularly, any open wounds kept clean and wrapped in sterile bandages and the sharing of potentially infected items strictly avoided. These precautions are doubly important if in a health-care or long-term care environment and even more so if one is in close contact with MRSA-infected people.
Staph Skin Infections
Staph infections are one of the most common causes of skin infections in the world today. One in every four people is estimated to carry staph bacteria on their skin or in their nasal passages and approximately one in every fifty of these cases is a more persistent type of staph known as Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus, or MRSA (MRSA Overview – webmd.com). This bacterium is tougher than more common staph and resistant to many of the antibiotics which are commonly used as treatment.
A person who carries the staph bacteria on their body is referred to as ‘colonized’. Just being colonized poses no inherit risk to the carrier unless an opening in the skin presents itself and allows the bacteria to enter. Cuts, sores and medical incisions are all common ways for staph to penetrate the protective layer of skin and create an infection. Most of these are localized and not serious as long as they are treated in a timely manner. In people with other conditions, such as weakened immune systems, a staph infection has the potential to become life-threatening.
How to Prevent Staph Infections To Spread?
Since one in four people carry a staph infection on their skin, it’s important to minimize your chances of spreading the bacterium. Washing your hands frequently – especially after using the bathroom – goes a long ways towards preventing an infection. Also try to avoid sharing personal items, like towels or razors. Wash your clothes regularly, and avoid touching clothing that has come into contact with bodily fluids.
If you work in the patient care industry, it is vital that you take additional precautions to prevent the spread of staph infections. Ensure that every piece of medical equipment has been disinfected before and after its use. If there’s any possibility of coming into contact with blood, or other bodily fluids, then it’s a good idea to protect yourself with a gown, mask and gloves. Keep in mind that even a tiny droplet of blood has the potential to infect somebody with MRSA.
Since staph bacteria evolve and adapt on a daily basis, it can be exceptionally difficult to find a cure for MRSA. Nevertheless, scientists and medical researchers have made significant progress in treatments. The best way to help prevent this staph infection is to understand as much as possible.
The number of MRSA infection cases is increasing and these bacteria are constantly adjusting to become resistant to more forms of antibiotics. It is important to get checked by a doctor if any symptoms appear. Early treatment can mean the difference between a quick recovery and potentially serious consequences.