According to ValleyCare Infectious Disease Specialist Valerie Chirurgi, MD, Methicillin-Resistant Staphylococcus Aureus (MRSA) infections continue to be in the news. "MRSA, also known as 'staph,' is a type of bacterium that has rapidly spread throughout the United States in recent years. Certain strains, also known as 'superbugs,' have become resistant to treatment as a result of the overuse of antibiotics," she says.
Typically associated with healthcare settings, newly emerging strains of MRSA are becoming more common in the community at large. Community associated MRSA can cause infections in otherwise healthy people, and a person can carry the bacteria without the presence of an active infection. These resourceful bacteria can be transmitted by physical contact such as in professional, college and high school contact sports, and also by contact with contaminated surfaces or items such as athletic equipment or clothing. An infection results when bacteria enter the body through breaks in the skin.
How can I avoid an infection?
By practicing good hygiene, infection risk can be greatly reduced.
- Handwashing - Keeping hands clean is number one. Using warm water and soap, lathering up and remembering the backs of hands and in between fingers is the most effective way to avoid infections in general. Alcohol gel is an excellent alternative when hands are not soiled.
- Cover Wounds - Protect any cuts and scrapes with a bandage until healed.
- Don’t Share - Avoid sharing personal items such as towels, sheets, razors, clippers, bar soap, clothing and personal athletic equipment.
- Don’t Participate - Consider not playing or practicing during an athletic event if you have an open wound.
- Use Hot Water - Sanitize linens by using hot water and a hot dryer setting if you have an infection.
- At the Gym – Use clothing or a towel as a protective barrier between skin and exercise equipment.
- Shower - After a game or working out, shower as soon as possible using soap (and shower shoes if at a gym).
What does it look like?
Despite these efforts, infections can occur. Dr. Chirurgi says, "It is important to recognize skin infections and get treatment early. See your health care provider immediately for any sign of infection, as more serious infections can develop." These can appear as a pimple or boil and can be red, swollen, painful, warm or draining. Keep a close eye on cuts, scrapes and insect bites. If you test positive for staph, ask to be tested for MRSA. Caught early, most infections can be cured.