Citizens For A Better Norwood

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

More on M.R.S.A. from Health Commissioner Donna Laake

Not long after our 10/30/07 blog linking to NCS district nurse Kathy Strasser’s letter to parents regarding the Superbug M.R.S.A., we contacted Norwood Health Commissioner Donna Laake and asked if she had any additional information we could post for our readers. She quickly emailed us what amounts to a guest blog on the subject, complete with websites we can all check for even more information. Thank you, Donna!

What is “M.R.S.A.” and how do I get it?
Health Commissioner Donna Laake

If you looked at your hands under a microscope, you would find hundreds of germs living in the cracks and crevices of your fingers and nails. One of those germs is Staphylococcus aureus, often called simply “Staph.” Usually these germs do not cause infection. When germs are growing in or on the body but not causing infection, it is called “colonization.” Usually humans colonize Staph in their nose but it can also be colonized on skin and other parts of the body. The germ just lays in wait for another host or for a break in the skin to begin growing and causing infection. M.R.S.A. is a type of Staph infection that is resistant to antibiotic treatment, but not all Staph infections are M.R.S.A. M.R.S.A. stands for “Methicillin Resistant Staphylococcus aureus.”

Staph infections usually manifest as skin infections such as a pimple, boil or abscess. These infections usually start when Staph germs enter the body through a scratch, cut, scrape or other break in the skin. Signs of a Staph infection include redness, swelling, tenderness or a sore that feels “hot.” Sometimes Staph infections look like spider bites.

Staph infections spread from skin-to-skin contact or by sharing items that have become covered with the Staph organism. Things like towels, athletic equipment, exercise equipment, and benches in saunas and hot tubs are common culprits. The best way to prevent the spread of Staph is hand washing, hand washing, hand washing! Avoid skin-to-skin contact with anyone suspected of having a Staph infection. Don’t share personal items such as towels, razors or athletic equipment. When using exercise equipment, spray the surface with a bleach water solution (at least 1 part bleach to 9 parts water) before and after use. I would often observe people using exercise equipment and NOT spray it down after they were finished, then watched as someone else followed on the dirty equipment. Don’t trust that the equipment is clean before your use. And if you suspect you have a Staph infection, see your doctor.

Early treatment can prevent Staph infections from becoming worse, so see your doctor if you suspect that you have a Staph infection. Sores should be covered to prevent the skin-to-skin contact necessary for spread. Doctors sometimes will take a sample around the sore or boil to verify that it is a Staph infection; other times the sore is cut open by the doctor and the infected site drained. DO NOT pop or open a sore yourself. This might make the infection worse. Wash your hands often, especially after changing a bandage. Throw the bandage away immediately, and disinfect any surface that might have come into contact with drainage or the infected skin with alcohol or bleach and water. If you are given an antibiotic for treatment, it is VERY important that you finish the entire course of treatment. If you do not take all of the antibiotics, the Staph germ could develop a resistance to medications and turn into M.R.S.A. which is much harder to treat successfully.

If you need additional information about Staph infections and M.R.S.A., you can contact the Norwood Health Department at 458-4600. You can also find information about Staph infections and M.R.S.A. on the Ohio Department of Health website at Select ‘MRSA: “What you need to know about antibiotic-resistant bacteria.” Also, the Ohio Department of Education has information at Type “MRSA” in the search box and you will be directed to several pieces of information. You can also go to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) website at On the right hand side of the webpage, you will find “Top 20 at CDC.Gov” which includes a link to information about M.R.S.A. Remember, it is easier to PREVENT a Staph infection than to treat it. Mother was right… WASH YOUR HANDS!