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Prior to the recent outbreak in Cedar Key, no one there had heard of Methicillin Resistant Staphylococcus aureus or MRSA, which is used to describe those examples of the organism that are resistant to commonly used antibiotics. Methicillin was an antibiotic used many years ago to treat patients with Staphylococcus infections. It is now no longer used except as a means of identifying this particular type of infection.
The common Staph organism is bacteria often carried on the skin and in the nose of healthy people and seems to cause no major problems. However, if it gets inside the body, for instance under the skin, MRSA can cause skin infections that may look like a pimple, boil or spider bite and can be red, swollen, extremely painful or have pus or other drainage. More serious infections may cause pneumonia, bloodstream infections, or surgical wound infections.
According to the Center for Disease Control, 25 percent to 30 percent of the population is colonized with Staph, while 1 percent is colonized with MRSA, but following these steps can prevent the spread skin infections:
* Cover any wound with clean, dry bandages; avoid skin-to-skin contact. You can protect yourself from infection by practicing good hygiene.
* Clean your hands frequently with soap and warm water, or use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer.
* Do not share personal items such as towels, washcloths, razors, clothing or sheets that have come in contact with an infected wound. Drying clothes in a hot dryer also helps kill bacteria in clothes.
Most Staph and MRSA infections are treatable with antibiotics. In an article circulated by the Florida Department of Health, Dr. Ana Viamonte Ros, State Surgeon General emphasizes that if you are given an antibiotic for one of these infections, take all of the doses, even if the infection is getting better. Do not share antibiotics with other people or save unfinished antibiotics to use at another time.
Said Ros, "It is possible the have staph or MRSA come back after it is cured. To prevent this from happening, follow your healthcare provider's directions while you have the infection, and follow the prevention steps after the infection is gone."