Methicillin Resistant Staphylococcus Aureus infections on the rise across the Dine' Nation
The number of Methicillin Resistant Staphylococcus Aureus (MRSA) infections on the Navajo Nation has recently been rising. To find out how you can protect yourself and others, read on.
What is staphylococcus aureus? (Staph)
Staphylococcus aureus, often referred to simply as staph are bacteria commonly carried on the skin or in the nose of healthy people. About 30 percent of all people have staph bacteria in their nose and the bacteria do not cause an infection in these people. However, at other times, staph bacteria can cause an infection.
What is MRSA?
It is a type of staph bacteria that is resistant to antibiotics such as methicillin. While about 30 percent of the population has staph, about 1 percent has MRSA. The problem with MRSA infections is that they may be very difficult to treat because most of the drugs that are used to treat staph infections don't work against these bacteria.
What does a staph or MRSA infection look like?
Staph bacteria, including MRSA, can cause skin infections that may look like a pimple or boil and can be red, swollen, and painful with pus draining from it. More serious infections from staph or MRSA include pneumonia, bloodstream infections or infections of surgical wounds. These infections can occur in otherwise healthy children and adults. MRSA bacteria may cause severe or life-threatening illnesses in people with other health problems.
The majority of MRSA infections occur among patients in hospitals or other healthcare settings that have weakened immune systems, such as patients at nursing homes and dialysis centers. However, MRSA infections are growing in number in the general community.
Factors that can increase the spread of MRSA skin infections include close skin to skin contact, openings in the skin such as cuts or scrapes, contaminated items and surfaces, crowded living conditions and poor hygiene.
How are MRSA infections spread?
MRSA infections are spread by touch or by direct contact with a contaminated object. Examples include picking up MRSA bacteria by touching an infected wound or bandage, by touching an object that has also been touched by something infected or by touching an object that has been touched or held by an infected person. These are some of the reasons that people should try their best not to share objects such as towels, washcloths, clothing or some types of sports equipment.
How can I prevent myself from getting staph or MRSA skin infections?
Practice good hygiene:
• Keep your hands clean by washing thoroughly with soap and water or using an alcohol-based hand sanitizer.
• Trim your fingernails weekly.
• Keep cuts and scrapes clean and covered with a bandage until healed.
• Avoid contact with other people's wounds or bandages.
• Avoid sharing personal items such as towels or razors.
Are staph and MRSA infections treatable?
Yes, most staph and MRSA infections are treatable with antibiotics. If you are given an antibiotic, take all of the doses as directed, even if the infection is getting better. The only reason you should ever stop taking antibiotics is if your doctor tells you to stop taking the medicine. Do not share antibiotics with other people or save unfinished antibiotics to use at another time.
Some staph skin infections may be treated by draining the abscess or boil and may not require antibiotics. Drainage of skin boils or abscesses should only be done by a healthcare provider. If after visiting your healthcare provider the infection is not getting better after a few days, contact them again. If other people you know or live with get the same infection tell them to go to their healthcare provider immediately.
If someone has a staph or MRSA skin infection, what can they do to prevent others from getting infected?
People can prevent spreading staph or MRSA skin infections to others by following these steps:
• Clean your hands. Wash your hands frequently with soap and warm water. Always wash before and after eating. Always wash after using the toilet. Always wash before and after caring for young children in activities such as changing diapers, feeding, or bathing. If you use a gym, wash your hands before and after using shared equipment. If you are in a situation where no hand washing is possible, use hand sanitizers.
• Do not share personal items. Items that are more likely to spread infections include towels, washcloths, clothing, razors, toothbrushes, cups and pillows. If you participate in sweat lodges, use your own towel or rug to sit on.
• Cover your wound. If you have a skin infection or wound, keep it covered with a clean, dry bandage. Follow your healthcare providers' instructions to care for your infection. Take care to dispose of bandages or band-aids so that others avoid touching them.
• Clean surfaces that may come into contact with your wound. This includes wiping items such as chairs and toilet seats so they are clean.
If you think you have a staph or MRSA infection, please contact your healthcare provider. In Tuba City, you can contact your provider or make an appointment at the walk-in clinic at 928-283-2501.
(TCRHCC Wellness Com-mittee is a group of health care providers, administrators, and community members whose aim is to promote health and wellness. Its members are Michelle Archuleta, Geri Bahe-Hernandez, RN; Daniel Borrero, Doctor of Dental Surgery; Jane Dougherty-Lake, Registered Dietitian; Kristin Graziano, Doctor of Osteopathic Medicine; Diana Hu, MD; Joann Kim, MD; Amanda Leib, MD; Katie Magee, MD; Sandra Magera, Registered Dietitian; Evie Maho; Sue Newman,Physical Threapist; Jane Oski, MD; and Dorothy Sanderson, MD.)
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