Finally, after years of warnings from health authorities of the growing hazard posed by drug-resistant bacteria, people are now listening. A deadly strain of antibiotic-resistant bacteria seems to be responsible in the death of more people every year, according to a study published last week in the Journal of the American Medical Association. An estimated 19,000 deaths in 2005 appeared to be caused by fatal bacterial infections, a much greater number of mortality than that of AIDS, emphysema or homicide. The recent casualty was a 17-year-old high school football player in Virginia, a grim reminder that Community Acquired Methicillin-Resistant Staphylococcus Aureus, or CA-MRSA, can victimized otherwise healthy people.
According to Dr. Charles Gerba, professor of environmental microbiology at the University of Arizona at Tucson, the best defense against the potentially deadly bacterial infection is common sense and cleanliness.
“We need to reinvent hygiene for the 21st century”, he said. “You go to a grocery store, and hundreds of thousands of people have touched those surfaces every day. Microorganisms are evolving very rapidly.”
CA-MRSA is considered primarily a skin infection. Usually, it looks like a pimple, boil or spider bite, but it quickly worsens into an abscess or pus-filled blister or sore. Patients with sores that won’t heal or are filled with pus should immediately see a doctor and ask to be tested for staph infection. They should avoid squeezing the sore or try to drain it as it will only spread the infection to other parts of the skin or deeper into the body.
Most MRSA cases happen in hospital settings, but 10% to 15% occur in the community at large among otherwise healthy people. Those who are prone to cuts and scrapes, like children and athletes, are likely to get infected. MRSA spreads easily through skin-to-skin contact, crowded conditions and the sharing of contaminated personal items. Extra caution should be taken by people who have regular contact with health care workers, those who have recently taken antibiotics, such as fluoroquinolones or cephalosporin, homosexual men, military recruits, and prisoners.
In order to lower the risk of contracting MRSA, people should be serious with regular hygiene, such as bathing and washing their hands before meals. It is advise to use antibacterial sanitizer especially after you’ve been in public places, or have touched handrails and other highly trafficked surfaces. Always make sure that cuts and scrapes are bandaged until they heal. Regularly wash towels and sheets, preferably in hot water.
Avoid sharing personal items such as brushes, combs, razors, towels, makeup, and cell phones. Dr. Gerba’s own teenage girl had once contracted MRSA infection and he eventually tracked the bacteria to her cell phone. She had shared it with a friend whose mother worked in a nursing home. Dr. Gerba went on to discover MRSA on the friend’s cell phone and makeup compact and on a countertop in her home. MRSA bacteria may be found on the skin and in the noses of nearly 30% of the population without causing harm. Experts believe the bacteria lurks on surfaces in 2% to 3% of homes, cars, and public places. However, MRSA are evolving, and the statistics may have already underestimated the prevalence of such deadly bacteria. At high risk are health clubs and gyms because the bacteria grow rapidly in warm, moist environments. Always wipe down gym equipment before you use it. Most people only clean the sweaty benches, but MRSA has also been found on the grips of workout machines.
So much have been said about misuse of antibiotics which allows bacteria to evolve and develop resistance to drugs. Pediatricians should not be pressured by parents to prescribe antibiotics even when they don’t seem to help most of childhood infections. When taking antibiotics, always finish the dose. Antibiotic resistance is bad for everyone, but your body can also become particularly vulnerable to resistant bacteria if you don’t follow dosage instructions carefully.
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