Monday, November 10, 2008

Stop MRSA Now

MRSA is an acronym for methicillin-resistant Staphlylococcus Aureus. I first heard about this resistant bacteria in the mid-1990s. A friend's son had been diagnosed with it. This was a child with multiple medical problems who was frequently on antibiotics for various reasons. We worried for him but not for ourselves. We were healthy.

The next personal association with it was when a family member contracted MRSA while hospitilized. This was about five years ago. Her caregivers were quite worried about becoming infected; her doctors had warned them about preventative procedures. Although, they didn't really know what to do. When they contacted my husband and I about it, we sent them to the CDC website for information. My family member kicked the infection, and no one else in the family became ill with MRSA.

Early in the year, my sister had her own run in with MRSA, obviously community acquired. She required an emergency room visit, a painful lancing prcedure, and pain medication. She lost a few days at work, too, because of pain.

My sister received what I perceived as over-cautious advice on how to prevent the spread of MRSA to her friends and co-workers. Much of what the doctor told her didn't agree with what I read on the CDC website. I wasn't overly worried about my children being around her, but I did want to know what I could do to reduce the chance of infection. One of my children had a few suspect lesions years earlier. My supposition was that she would be an easy target for MRSA if it had a chance to infect her.

Then, April came. The month that saw me spending more than a few hours in an ER myself along with a four day stay in the infectious disease ward of the hospital. The culprit, an MRSA infection in my nasal passage. (I wrote about it here.) I can easily say that I was a lucky one, despite the painful lancing and expensive antibiotics that left me drained for over a week. My husband knew how to use the medical system. He got me to the types of doctors I needed to see. He advocated for me when I couldn't think straight due to pain. I avoided serious injry because of attentive medical services. Not everyone is that fortunate.

Yet, I got out of the hospital with incomplete advice about how to prevent MRSA from spreading in my household. I was told that the disinfecting wipes would work. They don't for MRSA, although they are good at other infectious agents (say common cold and flu). I washed my hands religiously. I had my kids and husband and mom and sister wash their hands. Everything I used for my face became single use. My washing machine got a good workout.

To date, no one else in my family has gotten a MRSA infection. There have been plenty of opportunities as two of my children now ride their bikes without training wheels. Plus, my three-year-old takes risks, banging some part of his body daily. We do good wound care. Bandaids are used freely in this house. Hand-washing remains important. We pay attention to this issue.

What I don't want is for you or someone you know to get a MRSA infection before you pay attention to preventing MRSA infections. There are simple steps:
  • Scrub up - Wash your hands frequently with soap and warm water for at least 15 seconds - the time it takes to sing Happy Birthday twice - or use an alcohol-based hand rub sanitizer.
  • Wipe it down - Use a disinfecting bleach solution to wipe down and disinfect hard surfaces. Make sure to use clean cloths to avoid spreading MRSA from one surface to another. (1 tablespoon of disinfecting bleach diluted in 1 quart of water)
  • Cover your cuts - Keep any nicks or wounds covered with a clean, dry bandage until healed.
  • Keep to yourself - Do not share personal items, like towels or razors, that come into contact with bare skin.
  • Use a barrier - Keep a towel or clothing between skin and shared equipment.
Maybe you wonder about that last one. Think of places where people exercise, where kids exercise. It's not unknown for sports teams to have problems with MRSA infections. Take a look at Stop MRSA Now! Grant Hill is a member of the coalition, as am I, to get the information out there to moms, dads, teachers, and coaches.

Please take some time to read the website. The information is simple, easy to digest, and good for you. I'm going to leave you with a picture of me during the infection. The top two are from Tuesday. The bottom two are from Wednesday morning. I was in the hospital Wednesday night until mid Saturday. Compare this collage with the one of me above. By Wednesday, despite being treated with four different antibiotics, the infection had spread to both sides of my nose and under at least one eye. By late that night, the infection covered under the other eye.

So, pay attention to your cuts and scrapes. Wash your hands and do the other steps listed above. If you exercise at a gym, bring a towel or use the ones provided by the gym. It's not a step to be skipped.


Kara said...

Amazing and informational post. You are a true example of how MRSA can affect your family. My brother almost lost his arm due to a MRSA infection and it was a really scary time for our family. Thanks so much for your personal post.

Jauman said...

One area often overlooked in the battle against the transfer of dangerous infectious diseases in medical environments are the ubiquitous keyboards and mice. Standard keyboards and mice can not be disinfected because germs collect around and in seams and under keys. Recently Man & Machine, Inc. released a White Paper titled, “Minimizing Transmission of Infection Disease in Heath Care Environments by Use of Disinfectable PC Keyboards and Mice.” It can be viewed at:

molly said...