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Dangerous MRSA Bacteria Now Killing More People Than AIDS in the USA: Here is How to Avoid It

Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA), once an obscure illness confined to a spattering of hospital intensive-care units, has become a household word.

contact sports MSRA risk

Kids who participate in contact sports like football and wrestling are at an increased risk of MRSA because of the close skin-to-skin contact and potential for cuts and abrasions.

Though still mostly hospital-acquired, MRSA is spreading, and reaching epidemic levels in certain parts of the United States, such as Atlanta, Los Angeles and Texas.

A recent study by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) found that MRSA caused 94,000 life-threatening infections in 2005, and 18,650 people died from it that year.

Deaths from MRSA have now outpaced those from another deadly epidemic, AIDS. In 2005, about 16,000 people died from AIDS.

The report also revealed some of MRSA's concerning trends:

  • About 15 percent of invasive MRSA infections occurred among people who had not been in a hospital or health care setting.

  • Of the 85 percent of infections that could be traced to hospitals or health care settings, two-thirds appeared after the patient was no longer hospitalized.

  • People over the age of 65 were four times as likely to get an MRSA infection than people of other ages.

Meanwhile, outbreaks of MRSA are now occurring in schools. Students in at least six states have become infected, and three of the children have died.

The MRSA Superbug

MRSA is called a superbug because it's resistant to many antibiotics, making it extremely difficult to treat. Not only is MRSA resistant to methicillin, which includes penicillin and related antibiotics, but it's beginning to become resistant to newer antibiotics as well.

While it's not uncommon for people to carry MRSA on their skin -- about 30 percent of people do -- the bacteria has become problematic because of the overuse of antibiotics in the United States, in both human use and the routine feeding of antibiotics to livestock, which you then ingest via your food and water. This has caused the bacteria to mutate into one that is a challenge to control.

If you carry MRSA on your skin without being sick (which happens regularly), you are said to be "colonized" with the bacteria. Though you may not be affected, you can pass the germs on to others.

Meanwhile, about 12 million people receive treatment for skin infections caused by MRSA each year, according to the CDC's Jeff Hageman.

Most of these skin infections are minor and are treated by draining the site of pus and bandaging it, however some progress into life-threatening infections. While minor MRSA skin infections often heal on their own without drugs, those that spread are typically treated with the antibiotic vancomycin, which is one of the few left that is still effective against resistant bacteria.

Washing your hands MSRA prevention

Washing your hands regularly is your best defense against MRSA, and other infectious diseases.

It's not entirely known why some MRSA infections are minor, while others can be deadly, however certain factors can increase your risk of infection, including:

  • A compromised immune system

  • Age (the elderly and children are more at risk)

  • Certain invasive medical procedures such as catheterization, dialysis and feeding tubes

  • Recent antibiotic use

  • A recent hospitalization or living in a nursing home

  • Living in crowded conditions, such as in the military or in prison

  • Participation in contact sports (the bacteria can spread via skin-to-skin contact and through abrasions)

  • Living with someone who works in a health care setting

What to do to Reduce Your Risk of MRSA

As hard as MRSA is to treat, the best method to prevent it is simple. The most effective measure you can take to reduce your risk of this deadly infection involves simple hygiene, and particularly hand-washing with soap and water.

You should wash your hands regularly, for at least 15 seconds, and use a hand sanitizer for times when you don't have access to soap and water.
You can further minimize your risk of catching contagious illnesses by using PerfectClean Hand Wipes. They're small enough to carry in your pocket, purse, or child's backpack, yet effective enough to kill contaminants that can't be seen with the naked eye.

You can use them wet or dry to effectively remove germs from your hands, such as after a handshake or before eating. And because they're made of highly durable ultramicrofiber cloth, you can use them for 100+ washes before you need to replace them -- making PerfectClean Hand Wipes incredibly economical for everyday use.

Be sure to share PerfectClean wipes with your children, too, and teach them to wipe their hands regularly throughout their school day. MRSA spreads from skin-to-skin contact, and also via personal items, so using the following common-sense tips will also help protect you and your family from MRSA. Be sure to share these tips with your school-aged children and teens, as they're often the ones who are inclined to share items they shouldn't.

  • Don't share personal items such as towels, sheets, razors, clothing or athletic equipment.

  • Take a shower right after athletic games and practices.

  • Wash gym and athletic uniforms and clothing after each use.

  • Keep any cuts you have covered with a bandage until they heal.

Signs that a skin irritation may be infected with MRSA include skin redness, swelling, warmth, tenderness, pus drainage and sometimes fever. If you think you may be infected, see your doctor to get tested for MRSA.

Recommended Reading

6 Types of Very Common Toxic Bacteria You Need to Avoid, and Where They're Typically Found

The Nine Grossest Things Other People Do That Can Make You Sick


Journal of the American Medical Association October 17, 2007;298:1763-1771. October 19, 2007

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