Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus, or MRSA, is an extremely drug-resistant bacterium, also known as a superbug. A form of staph, the MRSA bacteria can be spread by touching surfaces that are contaminated, and by skin-to-skin contact. MRSA causes skin infections, pneumonia, blood poisoning, and toxic shock syndrome - but there are ways to prevent MRSA!
- Wash your hands - well. We all learned in kindergarten that we should wash our hands, but many people still don't do it well enough. To kill MRSA and prevent infection, you need to wash your hands with warm water and soap, for 30 seconds or more. Lather the soap and make sure you scrub your whole hands, your wrists, and the spaces between your fingers. Rinse your hands well and dry them on a clean towel or paper towel.
- Wash your hands frequently. Wash your hands after going to the bathroom, before preparing food, before eating, before smoking, before applying makeup, after blowing your nose, after you have touched surfaces that have been touched by many other people, after being around people who are ill... you get the idea! Without getting obsessive, if there's a chance that your hands are dirty or that you've touched something that sick people have touched, wash your hands! It will help you prevent MRSA.
- Use an alcohol-based hand gel if you can't wash your hands. It's better to wash your hands, but if you can't get to warm water and soap, it's a good idea to have some hand sanitizer with you.
- Take precautions in public bathrooms. Since you don't know if the other people have washed their hands before touching the doorknobs and the water faucets, it's better to use a paper towel or tissue if possible to avoid touching those surfaces and prevent MRSA.
- Clean faucets, counters, and handles in your own house. Use an antibacterial cleaner regularly on faucet handles, toilet handles, and doorknobs. These surfaces are touched often and can become contaminated easily. If you don't want to use an antibacterial cleaner - there is some thought that these cleaners are helping superbugs such as MRSA evolve - then use a mild bleach and water solution to help prevent MRSA. An alcohol solution stronger than 60% is also effective in wiping out MRSA.
- Clean your cuts. If you get a cut, make sure you clean it well and keep it covered, so that the MRSA bacteria has less of a chance to enter your wound.
- Use caution around other people's wounds. If you are helping someone change a bandage or performing first aid, try to avoid contact with the surface of the wound or the bandage. It is also a good idea to use disposable gloves and wash your hands immediately after removing the gloves.
- Clean exercise equipment. Wipe off shared exercise equipment - both before and after you use the equipment, since MRSA is able to grow easily in warm moist environments. Showering after using shared exercise equipment is another
- Be careful of sharing personal items. Clothes, towels, washcloths, lip balm, tweezers, nail scissors, and other items can spread MRSA.
- Only use antibiotics when it is necessary. Superbugs such as MRSA evolve because of the widespread use of antibiotics - the bacteria that do survive are often resistant to antibiotics and can turn into superbugs. Don't take antibiotics for viruses - it won't help - and when you do take antibiotics, make sure it is on your doctor's orders and according to the instructions
- Finally, seek medical attention immediately if a wound is not healing well. If a cut or a wound becomes infected or isn't healing quickly, see your doctor!
Although MSRA is a frightening disease, we can all take steps to make it less prevalent and less frightening. By preventing MRSA, you are helping us all stay healthier.