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One More Reason to Wash Your Hands in the Hospital…

Posted Aug 31 2009 12:19am

mà ~ my hand, originally uploaded by  _ n a t u r a l _.

Although the year 2000 didn’t bring the expected widespread Y2K havoc, it did bring the onset of increased numbers of MRSA infections.  According to the  Journal of Drugs in Dermatology (JDD)  online,  a new study of U.S. data from 2000 through 2004  showed that the number of people hospitalized for community-acquired MRSA infections increased by 28.9 percent.  (The study was conducted by  Dr. Marcus Zervos, an infectious disease physician currently practicing in Detroit, Michigan).  

In brief, MRSA (methicillin-resistant  Staphylococcus aureus ) is a strain of staph.  According to the  Mayo Clinic, there are two kinds of MRSA infections: health care-associated (usually caught in health care centers, like hospitals, nursing homes, etc.) and community-associated.  While health care associated MRSA is more common, it typically occurs only in patients with weakened immune systems.  On the other hand, community-associated MRSA is responsible for skin and soft tissue infections (and in some cases, pneumonia) in both those with weakened immune systems and otherwise healthy individuals.  Both the health care-associated and community-associated MRSA start as  small red painful abscesses; other symptoms include pus and fever.  In general, what alarms physicians about MRSA is its resistance to more antibiotics than most bacteria.

So what is a hospitalized patient to do?  As told to writer  Todd Neale for Med Page Today, Dr. Zervos recommends “avoiding unnecessary antibiotic use, regular hand washing, keeping dressings on skin wounds covered, and avoiding situations where the bacteria are present…For example, sporting equipment should not be shared.”

As always, with any health concern, speak to your physician.

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