Fighting MRSA Area heath experts urge cleanliness as the key preventative measure
With five cases of Methicillin- resistant Staphylococcus aureus ( MRSA) reported in the Newton County School System in the past month, local medical professionals are sternly preaching cleanliness as a precaution.
Amanda Fitzgerald, the infection control nurse at Newton Medical Center, said there is very simple way to protect against the bacteria that causes MRSA.
“ Hand washing, hand washing, hand washing and then even more hand washing,” Fitzgerald said.
Far too often, she said, people substitute alcoholbased disinfectants for good old fashioned hand washing. While alcoholbased disinfectants can kill some germs, they do not kill the bacteria that spreads MRSA.
“ Using alcohol based disinfectant is fine with washing your hands with soap, water and a paper towel,” Fitzgerald said.
People should always wash their hands before and after meals, trips to the restroom and if their hands are visibly soiled.
MRSA is particularly dangerous because, as a mutated strain of staph, the infection is resistant to many basic antibiotics.
“ We as a society have used so many antibiotics over the years that certain strains of the infection have become resistant,” Fitzgerald said. “ We have to treat it with very strong medicines. We hate to use them when we don’t need them.”
The infection was first seen in Europe during the 1960s, but did not reach the United States until the 1970s — and even then cases of MRSA were predominantly reported in only jails, nursing homes and hospitals.
“ It did not become a community issue until the late 1990s,” Fitzgerald said.
People are exposed everyday to bacteria and it is spread most often by skinto- skin contact
“ Staph is all over our skin all the time,” Fitzgerald said. “ But it will not bother you until you have a break in skin. If you have any kind of wound, cover it up. Then when you have to change the gauze, throw it away and wash your hands before you put a new bandage on.”
If a wound is infected with MRSA, the patient will notice a raised red mark or red rash which can be accompanied by a fever and gooey discharge. The area of the infection will usually also be tender. Fitzgerald said anyone who might have MRSA should consult a doctor.
If MRSA goes untreated, the infected person could have to spend days in the hospital receiving strong antibiotics through an IV. In a severe and untreated case of MRSA, the infection can reach a person’s blood or bones and could cause death, although Fitzgerald said that was rare.
“ Prevention is the ticket,” Fitzgerald said. “And that has to include not only yourself, but also your family as well.”
Along with regular hand washing, Fitzgerald suggests that people do not share bath towels, wash clothes, tooth brushes, makeup, bed sheets or clothes.
“ Good old fashioned hot showers can also help a lot,” Fitzgerald said.
Fitzgerald also recommends that women pay attention when treating themselves to a day at the nail salon. The space between an artificial nail and person’s real nail is a breeding ground for bacteria. Fitzgerald also warns women should not shave their legs before receiving a pedicure because even a small cut is enough to let an infection in.
“ Just go with hairy legs,” Fitzgerald said.
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Your best bet: Experts urge staying clean is one of the main ways you can cut down on the risk of contracting Methicillin- resistant Staphylococcus aureus.