What is MRSA, How is it Transmitted and How to Avoid it

MRSA has become a major concern for physicians around the world. What is MRSA? How can you avoid it? Arm yourself with knowledge about these dangerous drug…

The question of what is MRSA and why is it spreading in both healthcare and community settings is increasingly on the minds of doctors, hospital patients and a growing number of people in the community. MRSA has become one of the major concerns of physicians and other healthcare professionals all over the world. MRSA cases have been significantly increasing in number since. In 2007, a study conducted by Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) was published showing that yearly U.S. hospital deaths caused by MRSA had gone beyond the number of hospital deaths caused by the AIDS virus.

MRSA infections are most prevalent in hospitals and nursing homes mainly because people living in these facilities are in close proximity and have weakened immune systems, making MRSA easier to catch. MRSA infections acquired in the hospitals are called HA-MRSA or the Hospital Acquired MRSA. Another type of MRSA is called CA-MRSA, or Community Acquired MRSA, which is often acquired by otherwise healthy people who have recently been exposed to a hospital or healthcare facility.

What is MRSA? Because MRSA is becoming widely known due to increased prevalence and recent media coverage, many people have been asking “what is MRSA?”. MRSA stands for Methicillin-Resistant Staphylococcus aureus and is also called “multidrug-resistant Staphylococcus aurous”. MRSA is a particular type of Staphylococcus aureus bacteria more commonly called “Staph” (pronounced as “Staff”). MRSA is a type of Staph bacteria that has learned to resist the effects of penicillin-type of antibiotics such as Amoxicillin, Tetracycline, and Erythromycin. MRSA is often referred to as a “superbug”.

Methicillin antibiotics were introduced in the 1930’s to treat Staph and other infections. The widespread use of antibiotics has caused the problem of antibiotic resistance, making some types of bacteria, including Staph, resistant to common antibiotics. The first case of MRSA infection was identified in the United Kingdom in the year 1961.

Is MRSA contagious? MRSA is indeed contagious. MRSA infection can be transmitted through the following routes:

•   Direct contact with people who have MRSA infections or who are MRSA carriers. •   Touching or contacting objects which have been contaminated by MRSA bacteria. •   Exposure to air contaminated with particles carrying MRSA bacteria.

How is MRSA Avoided? You may have read articles on the internet where MRSA is called a virus. This is a misnomer since MRSA is a bacteria and not a virus. Bacteria are normally treated with antibiotics whereas viruses are not affected by antibiotics. There is no vaccine for MRSA infections.

The importance of being aware of how to avoid MRSA and how to manage MRSA once infected is essential in order to prevent the spread of MRSA to other people. While MRSA bacteria cannot be totally avoided, there are ways to minimize the possibility of getting infected, including:

•   Avoid using antibiotics if there are other alternatives and if antibiotics are not necessary •   Avoid or minimize contact with people infected with MRSA. •   Wash hands with soap and water when in public places. •   Keep cuts and open wounds covered with a bandage. This is to seal any opening in the skin that might become pathway for MRSA bacteria to infect. •   Minimize engaging in contact sports, or follow consistent bodily hygiene and clean sports equipment and clothing frequently and effectively.

The risk of catching a MRSA infection can be minimized by following effective avoidance measures. The transmission of MRSA to others can be greatly reduced by similar measures. Understanding what is MRSA and how MRSA is transmitted and controlled are crucial for reversing the growth of antibiotic resistant infections in the U.S. and around the world.