LAKE CHARLES, LA (KPLC) - For every problem, there’s a solution, but finding it is the tricky part. That’s where research often comes in. The problem in this case is a dangerous strain of antibiotic-resistant bacteria that’s more common than we’d like to think.
We hear about the potentially deadly Staph infection, MRSA lurking in places such as hospitals and various healthcare settings, but health officials are warning that the disease is becoming more prevalent.
“Actually, about 40 percent of the population have Staph living in their nose all the time. It actually lives there, and it doesn’t cause disease until it gets where it doesn’t belong,” said Dr. Lacey Cavanaugh, Region 5 Medical Director for La. Dept of Health.
Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) is bacteria usually spread by contaminated hands. In a healthcare setting, such as a hospital, MRSA can cause serious bloodstream infections.
Unlike the common form of Staph, MRSA is a contagious skin infection which can become deadly if not properly treated, but Dr. Cavanaugh says the warning signs are quite noticeable.
“Usually you’ll get an area that starts becoming red and very tender and it kind of slowly spreads or grows," Cavanaugh said. "Sometimes it can happen rapidly, it usually enters through a cut or a scrape or a scratch or a bite of some sort.”
In healthcare facilities, such as a hospital or nursing home, MRSA can cause severe problems including:
- bloodstream infections
- surgical site infections
Each year, 90,000 Americans suffer from invasive MRSA infection. About 20,000 die; many of whom are children.
Although Dr. Cavanaugh could not give specifics on the number of MRSA and Staph cases in our area, she says it’s something that they treat on a consistent basis.
“I don’t think we’re necessarily seeing more cases than we did before, but we are seeing more species of staph that are resistant to our antibiotics. It’s almost to the point that we’re at alarm levels in terms of antibiotic resistance," she said.
Although treating this infection is sometimes difficult because the bacteria is resistant to certain types of antibiotics, thankfully, there are simple ways to prevent yourself from getting infected.
“Frequent hand washing with soap; making sure that you scrub under your fingernails so that you don’t infect other parts of your body. And another thing is warm compresses," Cavanaugh said.
In the home, the following precautions should be followed:
• Wash your hands with soap and water after physical contact with the infected person and before leaving the home.
• Keep cuts and scrapes clean and covered with a bandage until healed.
• Towels used for drying hands after contact should be used only once. Use paper towels and dispose in the trash after use. MRSA can survive on most towels for as long as a couple of weeks or more.
• Disposable gloves should be worn if contact with body fluids is expected, and hands should be washed after removing the gloves.
• Linens should be changed and washed using the hottest temperatures on a routine basis.
Cavanaugh says although Staph can happen anytime, it’s more prevalent in the spring and summer months.
Information about MRSA rates in hospitals across the United States is available through the National Healthcare Safety Network (NHSN).
To see how CDC-funded state and local health departments, as well as academic investigators, are working to prevent healthcare-associated infections (HAIs), including MRSA, visit the Antibiotic Resistance Investment Map.