APIC Presents MRSA Facts for Handwashing Week

In conjunction with National Handwashing Week, which we're currently right in the middle of (it's Dec. 2-8), the Association for Professionals in Infection Control and Epidemiology is providing information on Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA), a bacteria that has received much coverage of late but about which many people still have questions.

MRSA is a germ that is resistant to Methicillin and many other antibiotics. MRSA infections often start as small red bumps that resemble pimples, boils, or spider bites. In very rare cases, the infection becomes widespread in the body and is so severe that the person dies. This is a small number of people compared to the number with treatable skin and soft tissue infections, or those who have the germ on their skin with no symptoms of infection at all.

Handwashing is the most important way to protect yourself against MRSA. Wash with soap and water for 20-30 seconds. If soap and water aren't available, use an antiseptic hand cleaner that contains at least 60 percent alcohol. A clean environment also helps stop the spread of disease. In sports and gym classes, it's very important that equipment is disinfected between uses. Wrestling and tumbling mats, protective helmets and pads, and any shared clothing must be sanitized after each use. After sports or gym class, kids need to shower with soap. Towels should never be shared, and all sports clothing must be laundered after each use.

If you get an MRSA infection, you should visit your healthcare provider, who may open and drain the wound. Small wounds often do not need antibiotics. If you do get antibiotics, be sure to take them exactly as prescribed. If your infection gets worse, or you have a fever, seek medical attention. To prevent spread to others, keep wounds covered with a bandage that doesn't leak. Wash hands thoroughly before and after changing the dressing. It is safe to go to school or work as long as the dressing will stay in place and not leak. If the drainage becomes worse, seek medical attention.

For more information on MRSA, visit http://www.preventinfection.org. For information on APIC, visit http://www.apic.org.

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