What You Should Know About MRSA and Its Prevention

Health & Wellness

August 29, 2018

The best way to combat a resilient strain of bacteria is to not contract it at all.

What is MRSA?

Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) is a type of staph bacteria that is resistant to many antibiotics and is therefore harder to treat. While only a small percentage of the population carries it, MRSA only responds to a limited choice of very specific antibiotics. If left untreated, MRSA can work its way throughout the body, potentially resulting in skin infections, pneumonia, sepsis, and bloodstream infections.

There are two types of MRSA: healthcare-associated (HA-MRSA) and community-associated (CA-MRSA).

HA-MRSA can affect those who have been hospitalized, have had an invasive medical device or procedure (such as surgery, intravenous lines, or urinary catheters), or reside in nursing homes.

CA-MRSA can affect those who participate in contact sports, have a cut or wound, or live in crowded or less-than-sanitary conditions (such as military camps or prison).

Symptoms to look for.

A very common symptom of either type of MRSA is infection of the skin. These skin lesions can be red, swollen, tender, warm to the touch, full of pus, and accompanied by a fever. Another symptom is lung infection. Look for persistent coughing and difficulty breathing. Because lung infection from MRSA is harder to diagnose (many strains of pneumonia look the same under X-ray), a culture must be taken to determine if MRSA is the cause.

The importance of prevention.

While healthcare facilities adhere to stringent protocols, the best thing you can do as a family member or friend of a patient is to remain watchful that all visitors are following sterile procedures, including wearing gloves and gowns when requested by staff.

At home, insist that your entire family practice good hygiene and wash their hands regularly. If you have a family member that participates in athletics, make sure he or she showers after every event. Do not share personal items such as towels or razors. And clean all cuts thoroughly and bandage to prevent skin-on-skin contact with others.

Please contact your family physician if you have any questions about MRSA. If you notice symptoms, see your doctor right away. When left untreated, MRSA can develop into very serious and threatening health conditions.


Author of this article

April Gandionco, MD, specializes in preventive medicine. She is a guest columnist and located at IU Health Physicians Family Medicine, 1375 N. Green Street, Suite 100, in Brownsburg. She can be reached by calling the office at 317.852.2251.

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