What is the mrsa virus?

Written by kathleen blanchard, r.n.
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What is the mrsa virus?
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MRSA is a bacterium that's resistant to treatment with commonly used antibiotics. MRSA stands for methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus. Bacteria in the MRSA family are often referred to as staph infections that cause boils and abscess. Understanding what MRSA is, and how to prevent its spread, has major public health implications. Over time, several bacteria have mutated, making them difficult or even impossible to treat.

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Staphylococcus aureus (staph) are bacteria normally found on the skin and in the nose in 33 per cent of the population. Overgrowth of normal bacteria causes infection. MRSA infections are not easily eradicated and can be problematic for anyone with weakened immunity or chronic health problems. When bacteria become resistant to treatment, they're referred to as super bugs. The term is often used in reference to the MRSA virus, which is actually not a virus at all.

Potential

MRSA has the potential to spread from person to person. Lung infections might be spread by coughing The most common way that people spread any bacteria or virus is from contaminated surfaces, including the hands of infected individuals. Because MRSA has such potential to become widespread, sometimes large groups of patients are screened in the hospital to prevent wound infections.

Identification

MRSA can be acquired either from public places, or in the hospital and other health care settings. Infections spread through public contact are called community-acquired infections. When MRSA spreads or is acquired in a health care setting, it is called hospital acquired methicillin staph aureus. Identification of MRSA is performed by taking a culture of a skin infection, sputum. If bacteria are in the bloodstream, blood cultures are sent to the lab for analysis. It is possible to carry MRSA and not have any symptoms. If your doctor suspects you may have MRSA and could spread it to others, he might perform a nasal swab. Laboratory tests tell the doctor if a staph infection is treatable with antibiotics. Identification and treatment of bacteria such as MRSA are facilitated by culture and sensitivity tests. Bacteria are examined under a microscope. Lab personnel observe the effects of various antibiotics to see which drugs kill the bacteria grown in petri dishes, and then submit the report for the doctor to review.

Effects of MRSA

Having an MRSA infection might mean you will be isolated, or confined to a hospital room or one area of the house. Health care providers or family members who care for patients with MRSA wear gloves and disposable gowns. Respiratory infections require using a mask to prevent caregivers from breathing respiratory droplets and becoming infected. Skin infections caused by MRSA are painful, red and swollen. They invade the tissues under the skin, including the bones. Bacteria that enter the bloodstream can become life threatening.

MRSA Prevention

Don't insist on taking antibiotics for treatment of viruses, such as colds and flu. Increased pressure on physicians to prescribe antibiotics unnecessarily has been a major factor in the development of MRSA and other antibiotic resistant bacteria. Bacteria also have the innate ability to mutate on their own, escaping the effects of antibiotics. Maintaining good overall health through diet and exercise can greatly reduce the risk of infection. Do not share athletic equipment or personal grooming items with others. MRSA can be spread easily in gyms and locker rooms. Maintain a healthy lifestyle to keep your immune system intact. Children, elderly people and patients with HIV/AIDS are most susceptible to MRSA, but even healthy individuals can be affected by infection that enters through broken skin. Frequent hand washing is one of the best ways to prevent spreading MRSA. Keep your hands away from your nose and mouth after being in public places. Wash your hands as soon as possible. The MRSA virus is really a bacterium, and it can be life threatening. It is not easily treated and can cause long-term health problems, especially for anyone with a compromised immune system. Preventing MRSA spread and finding new antibiotics to eradicate MRSA has become a public health focus.

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