Methicillin-resistant staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) is a contagious bacterial infection, that can lead to all kinds of inflammations. The bacterium is difficult to treat, because it is resistant to most antibiotics. Especially people with poor immune systems are at risk of infection by the MRSA bacterium.
Contamination with MRSA occurs mainly by direct skin contact, primarily via the hands. MRSA is, due to the resistance, mainly a problem for hospitals and nursing homes, where the bacteria can cause epidemics. Some foreign hospitals suffer a lot from MRSA. After infection, it takes four to ten days before the first symptoms occur. Patients with MRSA infection are usually more contagious than persons who are MRSA carrier. There are indications that MRSA is also found in several animal species and is transferred from animals to humans. This can especially occur with pigs.
MRSA can occur over the entire body, from the top of the head to the toes. Usually, however, MRSA settles at places where the skin merges into mucosa, such as the nasal cavity, throat and perineum. People can carry MRSA without being sick. This is usually temporary, they often lose the bacteria automatically. However, when the immune system is weak, MRSA can cause infections, such as a boil, inflamed skin or inflamed wounds. In rare cases, blood poisoning, bone infection or pneumonia can arise. This usually occurs when the immune system is impaired or when people have infusions, catheters or open wounds and are more susceptible to infections. Therefore, MRSA occurs mainly in the hospital.
MRSA can only be detected by laboratory tests. In order to test whether a person has MRSA, one or more cultures must be taken. To this end, smears are taken with cotton swabs from the lining of the nose, throat, perineum and any wounds. This is painless. In the laboratory can then be examined whether there is indeed MRSA.
The treatment includes the application of a nose ointment, washing the body and hair with a disinfectant soap and in some cases taking antibiotics. Which antibiotics are chosen, depends on factors including the type of MRSA. The MRSA bacteria are resistant to most antibiotics. But there are still some drugs that can kill the bacteria. It's important that the MRSA carrier remains stable during the treatment, because a change in the course of the disease could mean that the disease will recur again.
After treatment with antibiotics, cultures are taken in order to check the result of the MRSA treatment. Usually, complete cure follows. Multiple courses of antibiotics are sometimes needed. People cannot build a defence against MRSA.
- It’s required, on every visit to a doctor or health institution, to tell that you are MRSA carrier. Then appropriate action must be taken to prevent spreading.
- Keep the danger of contamination minimized by proper hygiene. Wash hands thoroughly after using the toilet, before cooking and before eating.
- Cover wounds and keep wet wounds covered with clean, dry bandages. Pus of infected wounds may contain MRSA and therefore it’s important to keep the wound covered and to prevent spread to housemates and others.
- Don’t share personal items, such as towels, washcloths, razor blades, clothing that may have been in contact with the infected skin. Textiles should be washed hot (60°C) and preferably dried in a dryer and not on the clothesline. Drying in the dryer helps to kill the bacteria.
- Not all water is drinking water. If there is doubt on the quality of drinking water abroad, drink bottled water (carbonated or not), tea, fruit juice and the like.
- Wash fruits and vegetables in clean water. If you are not sure, wash them in boiled water. Fruits that are not eligible, can better be peeled.
- Don’t eat raw (tartare) or half raw meat. Also, don’t taste raw mince and ensure very clean hands when producing mince. Shellfish (mussels, oysters and the like) may also be infected. Don’t eat them raw.
- Protect food from flies.
- Store leftovers cool. A coolbag is no refrigerator and can certainly not be used for storing leftovers.