In both the national and local media, a specific strain of staphylococcus bacteria, called Methicillin Resistant Staphylococcus (MRSA), has received a great deal of recent publicity. In actuality, MRSA has been around for more than a decade and is commonly found in hospitals.
Recently, MRSA was discovered in some local schools and that has created a heightened awareness on our campus, within the community and among some parents. We believe it is important for our campus community to know what MRSA is, where it came from, and what precautionary measures can be taken to avoid it.
Information below is from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
- What is methicillin-resistant staphylococcus aureus (MRSA)?
MRSA is a type of Staphylococcus aureus that is resistant to methicillin as well as some of the more common antibiotics, including oxacillin, penicillin and amoxicillin.
Staphylococcus aureus, often referred to simply as "staph," are bacteria commonly carried on the skin or in the nose of healthy people. At any given time, approximately 25 percent to 30 percent of the population has this bacteria present without having an infection. Staph bacteria are one of the most common causes of skin infections in the United States. Most of these skin infections are minor, such as pimples and boils, and can be treated without antibiotics. Staph bacteria also can cause serious infections, such as surgical wound infections, bloodstream infections, and pneumonia.
While 25% to 30% of healthy individuals have staph bacteria present, only about 1% have the MRSA bacteria.
MRSA is not a new infection. Recent school-based and community-associated cases of MRSA, have catapulted MRSA into the news. Below are some basic facts concerning this infection—what it is, how you can recognize it and how to help prevent it.
- How common are MRSA infections?
The majority of MRSA infections occur among patients in hospitals or other healthcare settings. This is known as healthcare-associated MRSA. However, MRSA is becoming more common in the community setting. This is known as community-associated MRSA.
- What does a staph or MRSA infection look like?
Staph bacteria, including MRSA, can cause skin infections that may look like a pimple or boil and can be red, swollen, painful, or have pus or other drainage. More serious infections may cause pneumonia, bloodstream infections, or surgical wound infections.
- How are community-associated staph or MRSA infections spread?
Factors that have been associated with the spread of MRSA skin infections include: close skin-to-skin contact, openings in the skin such as cuts or abrasions, contaminated items and surfaces, crowded living conditions, and poor hygiene. MRSA is spread by DIRECT contact and cannot be spread through the air, and is also very rarely transmitted by contaminated surfaces.
- How can I prevent staph or MRSA skin infections?
Practice good hygiene:
Keep your hands clean by washing thoroughly with soap and water or using an alcohol-based hand sanitizer.
Keep cuts and scrapes clean and covered with a bandage until healed.
Avoid contact with other people’s wounds or bandages.
Avoid sharing personal items such as towels or razors.
- What should I do if I think I have a staph or MRSA infection?
See your healthcare provider. For students, the Student Health Service is open Monday through Friday, 8:30 a.m. – 4:30 p.m. in Van Hoesen Hall, Room B-26. The phone number is 607-753-4811.
- How are MRSA infections treated?
Almost all MRSA skin infections can be effectively treated by drainage of pus with or without antibiotics. More serious infections, such as pneumonia, bloodstream infections, or bone infections, are very rare in healthy people who get MRSA skin infections.
- Is there anything else I should know?
Overuse of antibiotics has caused the development of MRSA. To avoid building up a resistance, it is important that people not use antibiotics unless absolutely necessary.
Student Health Service
Van Hoesen Hall, Room B-26
P.O. Box 2000
Cortland, NY 13045