Take precautions to prevent spread of staph infections

Friday, October 26, 2007

At least one football game in Nebraska was postponed because of a staph infection, and as cold weather sets in, and more of us move indoors, precautions will become even more important.

The concern is MRSA -- methicillin-resistant staphylococcus aureus -- a bacteria that can't be controlled with the usual antibiotics.

While it has been a concern for hospitals, nursing homes and clinics for several hears, it has moved into schools recently, with Nebraska, Washington, West Virginia, Pennsylvania and Virginia -- where one student died -- all reporting cases.

A Centers for Disease Control and Prevention study found that MRSA caused more than 94,000 life-threatening infections and nearly 19,000 deaths in the United States in 2005.

While most staph infections are minor, appearing as pimples and boils and can be treated without antibiotics, it unfortunately doesn't end there.

Staph also can cause infections in the blood, bones and lungs, where it causes pneumonia. That's when doctors face the challenge of finding a drug that can bring the infection under control.

What should we do?

For one, know what to look for:

* A cut or opening in the skin.

* Something that appears like a spider bite, boil or a blister.

* Red, hot or itchy skin.

If it gets worse, you could get a fever or even one of the more serious infections.

To prevent that:

* Wash hands frequently.

* Don't share personal items such as razors, towels or sports equipment.

* Wash any clothes that come into contact with staph infection.

* Keep wounds clean and bandaged, wash clothing so as not to spread the infection and see your doctor for treatment

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