MRSA: Not a super bug but common sense is urged

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MRSA, or Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus, is not a new germ but is getting a lot of  attention because of a recent outbreaks in area county schools and a death in Central Virginia. It was also the topic of an article in The Journal of the American Medical Association.

Alexandria Health Director, Dr. Charles Konigsberg, said Healthcare workers have been familiar with SA since the 1960s because it is seen most often in hospitals and long-term care facilities. The JAMA article was simply a wake-up call for many of us because it brought to light that SA is now being seen more and more often in the community. It is not a public health crisis but it is something that we need to be aware of and educate the public about, Konigsberg said.

SA is found in peoples noses and on the skin. Many people are carriers but never know it, Konigsberg said.

It can be transmitted by skin to skin contact and by sharing clothing or towels. Thats why you have seen so much concern about student athletes. They come into close contact with each other and frequently share towels. We are discouraging that, Konigsberg said.

What to do
Preventive measures are mostly common sense, according to Konigsberg. If you get a scrape or have an open wound on your skin, keep it clean and covered. Dispose of used bandages appropriately and if the wound doesnt heal, go see a doctor.

Most SA is found on the skin and is not terribly dangerous. However, if it gets into the bloodstream, that is another matter because it is so resistant to most antibiotics. It can then affect the central nervous system and internal organs and has caused death.

Konigsberg has been in touch with the Alexandria City Public School System and Superintendent Rebecca L. Perry has sent a memorandum to staff about precautions that should be taken. The school system has had a couple of cases of SA but they have been handled appropriately. The Virginia Department of Health has instituted limited reporting for cases of MRSA when there are significant numbers of such cases occurring in the same location.

Disinfecting surfaces and encouraging everyone to wash their hands and, again, keep wounds clean and covered, is a good way to stay healthy. We recommend one part bleach to nine parts water, Konigsberg said. Generally, these super cleaners that some organizations are trying to sell just arent necessary. Its really common sense.

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