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Thursday, June 22

MRSA

A few post below, I gave a CDC update on the bird flu, and Jo asked about MSRA and Jo is right, it is far more of a pratical concern than H5N1 Avian flu. And since most readers do not know about this disease I thought I might give a VERY broad overview of what it is and why it is dangerous.

Methicillin resistant staphylococcus aureus, or MRSA for short, is a type of staph infection. And while most staph infections are rather bothersome they can easily be treated with antibiotics and of course, many (20-30%) healthy people do have the Staph bacteria in their bodies with no ill effects. The problem, however, is that MRSA is antibiotic resistant, (it was accidentatly 'bred' in hospitals due to the wide spread use of antibiotics in patients), and can spread via contact in many cases.

It used to be pretty much confined to hospital settings, but with the prevelance of 'day' surgeries and the rise of immunocompromised patients (HIV/AIDs, Cancer, Transplant, etc) it has now taken hold in the general population. Its spread has been most noticeable amongst the immunocompromised, prison populations, military members, and amongst atheletes. The atheletes seem to be two pronged; the close proximity of players (on the field, in the shower, sharing equipment, etc) and also due to the use of steriods which do effect the immune system.

Just as an FYI, the CDC has a special classification for MRSA that is contracted outside of the healthcare setting, CA-MRSA. However they are still on the survelliance and research part of the job with no set 'guidelines' for CA-MRSA. Factors that have been associated with the spread of CA-MRSA skin infections include close skin-to-skin contact, openings in the skin such as cuts or abrasions, contaminated items and surfaces, crowded living conditions, and poor hygiene. Some Staph can also be spread via coughing or sneezing, causing pneumonnia, but that one is a bit less of a concern for the moment.

At this point in time there are 3 genetically distinct strains of CA-MRSA in the community and the outbreaks tend to happen in clusters. (And contrary to popular myth, the flesh eating bacteria is NOT among them, that one is STREPT, not Staph). CA-MRSA is treatable via several methods (depending on the type and where the infection is) anything from a lancing and drainage to hospitalization with IV antibiotics can be required. And as ALWAYS, basic hygiene is the first and best prevention.

I would strongly suggest that anyone who is concerned about this disease read the articles via the links I have provided. I have done my best to find appropriate articles written in everyday language and if you have any further questions or if you think you or somone you know has this disease please contact your healthcare provider immediately. I should also add that many people have had CA-MRSA and have mistaken it for a 'spider bite' that becomes infected, per the abstract via the CDC.

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