Over the past few months, there has been a lot of discussion in the media about a type of staph infection identified as community acquired methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus, or MRSA. MRSA is a type of staph that is resistant to a class of antibiotics which include penicillin and its derivatives. About 25 to 30 percent of the population carries some form of staph, and approximately 1 percent carries MRSA. MRSA is not a new bacterium. It is a bacterium that is commonly found in the nose and on the skin of many healthy individuals. While recent incidences of MRSA publicized in the press have increased public awareness of these bacteria, MRSA infections have been occurring regularly in the community in last few years.
The Virginia Department of Health provides a MRSA Fact Sheet (pdf) that provides answers to commonly asked questions. Anyone who would like to know more about MRSA may find this fact sheet helpful.
What does MRSA look like?
MRSA causes a skin infection that may resemble a pimple, boil, or ingrown hair. An infection may be red, swollen, or have pus or other drainage.
How can MRSA be prevented?
Because staph infections are transferred primarily through skin-to-skin contact, we should all continue to practice the following good hygiene habits:
1. Keep your hands clean by washing thoroughly with soap and water or using an alcohol-based hand sanitizer. To prevent the spread of bacteria, use liquid soap instead of bar soap.
2. Keep cuts and scrapes clean and covered with a bandage until healed.
3. Avoid contact with other people's wounds or bandages.
4. Avoid sharing personal items such as towels or razors.
5. Athletes, including recreational sports athletes, should shower as soon as possible after a practice, scrimmage, or game.
6. Most importantly, if you have a sore or cut that is red, swollen, painful, oozing, or if it just won't heal, you should see a doctor as soon as possible for an evaluation.