How to Avoid, Identify And Treat Staph Germ

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Thursday, October 18, 2007

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has calculated that a drug-resistant staph bacterium known as MRSA is responsible for more than 94,000 serious infections in the United States each year.

What is MRSA?

It is methicillin-resistant staphylococcus aureus, a bacterium that does not respond to certain antibiotics. It can colonize in the nose, throat and skin without causing infection. But if it gets into the body, typically through a cut or scrape, it can cause potentially serious infections.

What are symptoms of an MRSA infection?

MRSA should be suspected in skin or soft-tissue infections that are swollen, inflamed and painful. In the beginning, such infections might resemble a pimple or boil; many are initially mistaken for spider bites. If an MRSA infection becomes invasive and potentially serious, symptoms can include fever, chills and shortness of breath.

An MRSA infection, confirmed through a skin or blood culture, requires treatment with several antibiotics.

How is it transmitted?

MRSA is most often spread by skin-to-skin contact, contact with a contaminated surface or through the sharing of personal items such as towels and razors.

How can MRSA be prevented?

Vigorous and frequent hand-washing is the most effective way to stop MRSA transmission. Cuts and scrapes should be kept clean and covered with a bandage until healed. Health experts also discourage the sharing of personal items. The response in community settings is often large-scale disinfectant efforts.

SOURCES: Children's Hospital, Johns Hopkins Hospital


© 2007 The Washington Post Company

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