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Staph or CA-MRSA infection alert

How to avoid staph

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, razors, tweezers, etc.

Dispose of dressings and bandages in a separate trash bag and close the bag tightly before throwing it out with regular garbage.

Disinfect all non-clothing and non-disposable items that come in contact with an infected wound.

Wash soiled linens and clothes with hot water and laundry detergent. Drying clothes in a hot dryer, rather than air-drying, also helps kill bacteria in clothes.

Wash utensils and dishes with soap and hot water or use a standard home dishwasher.

Avoid participating in contact sports or other skin-to-skin contact until an infected wound has healed.

Shower after working out.

Use a barrier (clothing or towel) between your skin and shared equipment.

Wipe surfaces of equipment before and after use.

There is considerable mention in local and national news media about the dramatic rise in Staphylococcus aureus, or as it’s more commonly referred to - “staph”. According to the Center for Disease Control web site, 25 percent to 30 percent of the population is colonized (when bacteria are present, but not causing an infection) in the nose with staph bacteria. Sometimes the bacteria can cause an infection. Staph bacteria are the most common cause of minor skin infections (such as pimples or boils) and can be treated with antibiotics. However, staph can also cause serious wound infections, bloodstream infections, pneumonia or death. Methicillin-resistant staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) is a strain of staph that is resistant to antibiotics in the pencillin family. Community-associated MRSA (CA-MRSA) is MRSA that is contracted outside the normal hospital or nursing care scenario by otherwise healthy people.

What is Staph?

Staph (Staphylococcus) is a common form of bacteria. The genus includes 31 species, many of which can be found on human skin, mucous membranes and in the soil. Most are totally harmless. Some can cause minor illness such as folliculitis, boils, styes or abscesses if they enter the body through a cut or other break in the skin. Toxins from staphylococcus bacteria can grow on improperly stored food and cause food poisoning. Because staphylococcus is bacteria, infections can be treated with antibiotics. For one species, Staphylococcus aureus, repeated use of antibiotics has caused the strain to become drug-resistant. For a number of years, this drug-resistant strain was seen almost exclusively in hospitals.

What About MRSA?

Currently health and community officials are concerned about an increase in Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) infections found outside hospitals. A confirmed case of MRSA infection has been successfully treated in the Ada Village Schools. Because the MRSA strain of the bacteria can survive on dry surfaces and can enter the body through any break in the skin, such as a cut or scrape, it can be easily transmitted between otherwise healthy individuals. Outbreaks have been reported in schools, gyms and day care centers. A growing number of deaths are being attributed to MRSA infections. However, most healthy individuals can be successfully treated if the infection is recognized in its early stages.

What Does MRSA look like?

WebMD describes it this way: In otherwise healthy people with no recent history of hospitalization, MRSA often appears as a pimple or boil that can be red, swollen and painful. The lesion may also have pus or other drainage. Draining the lesion in the doctor's office may be the only treatment needed for localized skin infections, but doctors may also treat skin infections with oral antibiotics that are not resisted by MRSA.

How Do I Know If I'm Infected?

If you have a cut or other wound, pimple, "spider-bite" or boil that is red, swollen or painful, you should see your health care provider. ONU students can visit the Student Health Center for evaluation. ONU faculty and staff should see their private health care provider. People with weakened immunity - the very young, elderly and those with chronic diseases - are especially at risk and should immediately seek care.

How Can I Prevent Infection?

Wash your hands! Wash your hands often and thoroughly. Use soap and water and slowly recite the alphabet to ensure that you wash for the recommended length of time. When you have a cut or scrape, keep it clean and covered with a clean bandage. Don't touch other people's wounds or bandages. (There's a reason health care workers wear gloves.) Don't share personal items like towels, soap or razors. Keep restrooms, gym and locker rooms clean and sanitized.

If you do have an infection, keep the infected area covered. Wash your clothing, bedding and towels in hot water to prevent spreading the infection. Always follow your doctor's orders when taking medication and caring for wounds.

Learn more from the Ohio Department of Health and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.