Across the nation concerns are being raised about Methicillin-Resistant Staphylococcus Aureus (MRSA). In Whatcom County local physicians are also being asked many questions about diagnosis, treatment and prevention of this infection.

General Information
Skin infections can start when bacteria (such as staphylococcus or streptococcus) get into a cut or scrape. Different types of staphylococcus (staph) bacteria are commonly found on our skin and in our nasal passages. MRSA is a type of staph infection that is resistant to a major class of antibiotics (which includes methicillin) and so may require a special treatment in order to be healed. Not all MRSA infections require antibiotics to treat. When antibiotics are required, some strains of MRSA can be treated with common oral antibiotics other than the methicillin-type group, while others require intravenous antibiotics.

MRSA is spread by direct skin-to-skin contact or by sharing a personal object like a towel, clothing, or bedding that an infected person has used. A MRSA infection can look like a bug bite at first and then grow into a boil. Although MRSA often causes relatively minor skin infections, sometimes these infections are severe and involve the heart, lungs, blood or bones.

Regular hand washing and not sharing personal items helps to stop the spread of MRSA. Washing your hands often with soap and warm water or using an antiseptic gel on clean hands can help prevent infections.

What You Should Do
  • Wash cuts, scrapes and sores with soap and water. Cover them with bandages on all 4 sides so drainage cannot escape and bacteria cannot get in.
  • Avoid contact with other people's cuts or sores and the materials that came into contact with the injury or infection.
  • Avoid sharing personal items, such as soap, towels and razors.
  • Clean and wash sports clothing and equipment after each use. Shower or bathe after sports activities especially if there is physical contact with others during the activity.
  • If you have signs of infection, such as pain, redness, swelling and heat and oozing pus or blood, call your doctor.
National experts in infection control have put together many excellent resources, including an audio tape on what the infection is and how families can protect themselves.