Tue. Jan 25th, 2022

Staphylococcus aureus, “staph,” are common bacteria. They normally live on your skin and in the nasal pasages of about one in every three Americans. They are usually harmless. However, the bacteria can cause infection if they enter the body through the skin. Relavance of this topic has become more popular. According to an article in The New York Times, schools in several states report staph infections, and deaths raise the alarm. People are becoming worried as some cases, including a fatal case, have involved students.

Secondly, the CDC published a shocking study reporting that nearly 19,000 people died from the infection in 2005. It sparked headlines like “Drug-Resistant Staph Killed More Americans Than AIDS in 2005.” Schools all across the country have been scrambling to clean locker rooms and residence halls, and some schools are even closing in response to the new information.

According to the web site, www.cdc.gov, MRSA is a type of staph bacteria that does not respond to some antibiotics, specifically methicillin and related drugs. This resistance can make it difficult to treat, though most people can be helped if they seek treatment early. The infection is also largely preventable.

MRSA is spread by skin-to-skin contact with someone who has staph, or contact with personal items or surfaces that have the bacteria on them. People at risk are those who live in crowded living conditions, have poor hygiene or have openings in their skin such as cuts or scrapes. Kids and athletes can be at a higher risk because they get cuts more often and sometimes share personal items and clothing.

Most MRSA infections look like pimples or boils on the skin. These boils may be red, swollen, painful and may contain pus or other fluid. The infection may cause fever and fatigue. These skin infections commonly occur at sites of visible skin trauma, such as cuts and scrapes and areas of the body covered by hair like the back of the neck, groin, buttocks, armpit, beard or mustache.

Since the infection is resistant to some drugs, doctors may try to treat it without using medication by draining or removing the affected skin. Some antibiotics are still effective-bacteria that are resistant to some drugs may respond to others. However, people are concerned that resistance could develop as more and more people use antibiotics.

So how can a person protect his/herself?

To start, practice good hygiene. Wash your hands with soap and water or use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer throughout the day. Shower immediately after exercise.

Cover scrapes or cuts with a clean, dry bandage until fully healed. Change the bandage daily. Avoid sharing personal items that come into contact with bare skin such as combs, razors, tweezers, athletic equipment, makeup, clothing and towels.

When going to the gym, bring a “barrier” (towel, clothing) to put between your skin and shared equipment like benches or mats. Maintain a clean environment.

Frequently clean commonly touched surfaces like doorknobs, railings, computer equipment (keyboard and mouse), cell phones, remote controls.

Consult your doctor if an unusual pimple-like bump shows up. As the CDC says, “When in doubt, check it out!”

Justine DiEmedio is a fourth-year student majoring in nursing. She can be reached at JD588980@wcupa.edu.

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