Simple Steps to Stopping Staph: Soap It Up!

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Does all the talk and news about “superbug” staph infections have you nervous and edgy?  Do you fear to touch any object in public places, like schools or Wal-Mart?  What exactly is “staph” anyway, and why is the American public, including metro Atlanta, in an uproar about it?

According to the Mayo Clinic, Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) infection is caused by Staphylococcus aureus bacteria.  MRSA is resistant to a family of antibiotics related to penicillin that includes antibiotics called methicillin and oxacillin, and is often resistant to many other antibiotics as well.  MRSA infections can manifest themselves as infected, unsightly, and painful boils or skin wounds that are difficult to treat; in the most severe cases, the infection can get into one’s bloodstream and even be fatal.

In the most recent issue of the Cherokee Ledger-News, Cherokee County Schools Director of Communications Mike McGowan said that so far this school year, there are nine cases of staph infection in county schools, four of them designated as MRSA. All four children have been treated by a physician, are cured of the infection and are back in school, McGowan said.  He said there have been no clustered occurrences of MRSA, only random ones. Last year, the school system knew of 11 cases of staph infection.

So what can you do to avoid getting this nasty infection?  Dr. Julie Gerberding, head of the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), says, “MRSA is preventable largely by commonsense hygiene…Soap and water is the cheapest intervention we have, and it’s one of the most effective,” she told a hearing of the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform. 

“The [MRSA bacteria] might be resistant to some antibiotics, but it is not resistant hand-washing,” stresses Nicole Coffin, a spokesman for the Centers for Disease Control. “If you can’t get to a sink, you can use an alcohol-based hand rub.”

The Atlanta Journal Constitution offers these strategies for preventing staph infections:

Wash your hands frequently and thoroughly, using warm water and soap. Spend at least 20 seconds rubbing your hands together, rinse the soap off and then dry — preferably with an air dryer or a clean paper towel. If you don’t have access to soap and water, use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer.

Be especially vigilant about hand-washing before you prepare food, after using the bathroom, after blowing your nose or coughing, and before and after tending to a cut or wound.

Keep all cut and wound sites clean and well-covered. This is particularly important with respect to wounds that are oozing pus or fluid, which is often packed with germs.

Use disinfectant to clean surfaces that are likely to come in contact with germs. This includes handrails, door knobs, kitchen and bathroom counters, faucets, and athletic equipment that is often shared by many people.

Avoid sharing any personal items such as razors, towels, washcloths, bed linens, uniforms, or other clothing.

Make sure clothing, towels and bed linens are cleaned regularly using warm water and laundry detergent.

If you like to get pedicures or manicures, make sure you bring your own manicure kit with you, and insist that the technician washes his or her hands before using it.

Never demand antibiotics when your physician believes they are unnecessary or ineffective in your case. The overuse of antibiotics causes germs to build up resistance against them, eventually making the medicines ineffective.

You can read more about staph-MRSA by checking out these information sources from The Unquiet Library’sDel.icio.us favorites at http://del.icio.us/creekview_hs_library/staph_MRSA.  Most of the links are free resources, but please see Mrs. Hamilton or Mrs. Fleet if you need the GALE password to access the GALE article links.

In the meantime, practice good hygiene and wash your hands!

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