MRSA: The life threatening infection that you need to know about

By Dr. Zulfikar Bux
Assistant Professor of Emergency medicine

Antibiotics misuse has led to a worldwide outbreak of MRSA. It is an infection that is resistant to conventional antibiotics treatment and is beginning to creep up in Guyana. Although we do not have accurate stats for Guyana, the CDC estimates that more than 80,000 aggressive MRSA infections and 11,000 related deaths occur each year in the United States. Today we will discuss this disease so that you can help educate others to prevent its spread.
What is MRSA?
Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus is an infection that is hard to cure. Doctors and nurses sometimes call it MRSA or “Mursa” for short.
People normally carry all sorts of germs inside their body and on their skin. The body usually controls these germs, so they do no harm. About one in three people have a germ on their skin called “staph.” In these people, staph usually causes no problems. But if they get a cut or a scrape, the germ can cause an infection.
A staph infection can be mild, and affect only the skin. But if the infection goes deeper into the body, it can be very serious. These more serious infections tend to happen in young children, older adults, and people who cannot fight infection well.
One especially dangerous form of staph infection is the antibiotic resistant form, MRSA. This form is difficult to treat and get rid of. It involves germs that have learned to outsmart the drugs normally used to kill them.
How do you catch MRSA?
Many people carry MRSA on their skin without knowing it. You can pick up the germ by:
*Touching a person who has MRSA on his or her skin
*Being nearby when a person with MRSA breathes, coughs, or sneezes
*Touching a table, handle or other surface that has the germ on it
If the germ is on your skin and you cut yourself or have another injury, you can get infected.
How do I know if I have a MRSA infection?
If you get a MRSA infection, you will probably have some skin problems. You might have a red tender lump, and it might ooze pus. Or you might have a cluster of bumps that look like pimples or insect bites. If the infection gets into the blood, it can give you a fever or make you feel tired.
If your doctor thinks you have MRSA, he or she can take a swab from your skin and check it for germs. In some cases, blood tests, X-rays, and other tests might be needed.
Can MRSA be treated? — Your doctor can give you advanced antibiotics to treat your infection. If you get treated with medicines to take at home, it is very important that you follow the directions exactly. Take all the pills you are given, even if you feel better before you finish the pills. If you do not take them all, the germ could come back even stronger.
If you do not get better with the medicines that come in pill form, or if you are very sick, your doctor might put you in the hospital. There he or she can give you stronger medicines through a tube in one of your veins (IV).
What are some complications of MRSA?
The following conditions can occur as a result of MRSAand can all become life threatening:
· Brain or spinal cord abscess (nervous system infections)
· Cellulitis (connective tissue infection)
· Endocarditis (infection of the membrane that lines the heart)
· Organ failure (e.g., kidney)
· Osteomyelitis (bone marrow infection)
· Pharyngitis (throat infection)
· Pneumonia (respiratory infection that affects the lungs)
· Septic arthritis and septic bursitis (joint infections)
· Septicemia (also called blood poisoning)
· Sinusitis (sinus infection)
· Thrombophlebitis (inflammation of a vein and formation of a blood clot)
· Toxic shock syndrome (acute infection that involves multiple organ systems)
Is there any way to prevent MRSA? — People everywhere should wash their hands often with soap and water. But it is especially important for people who are in the hospital or a nursing home. Washing your hands is the best way to prevent most infections. It’s also a good idea not to share personal items such as towels or razors. Use antibiotics only as directed. Do not use antibiotics unnecessarily. Let your doctor decide when it’s best to use antibiotics. I must note that even doctors are overprescribing antibiotics that are leading to more antibiotic resistance.
If you are a patient in a hospital, you should also make sure your doctors and nurses wash their hands before they touch you. If there is no sink, they can use an alcohol-based hand gel to clean up.
We have caused this plague on ourselves and we all need to do our part to minimize it. Educate yourself and more importantly, educate others about MRSA and antibiotic resistant bacteria. (Kaieteur News)

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