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How MRSA Works


MRSA Prevention
Simply washing your hands often can decrease your risk of becoming infected with the MRSA bacteria.
Simply washing your hands often can decrease your risk of becoming infected with the MRSA bacteria.
Photo courtesy Joe Raedle/Getty Images

So should we be panicking? Will the superbug end up leveling mankind? Perhaps it's a little early to declare anarchy or give away all of your favorite possessions -- we can still beat the superbug. Prevention is perhaps our best weapon in the fight against MRSA. Just taking some simple steps will greatly decrease your chances of infection.

Community-associated MRSA can be prevented in your everyday life. The key is not to go overboard. All of the antibacterial soaps and lotions that were supposed to protect all of us from germs and bugs have actually helped MRSA become such powerful bacteria.

  • In the gym: Keeping those personal items that touch your skin all to yourself is a good place to start. Don't let other people borrow your razor, soap, or even towel. If you go to the gym, don't wear the same clothes twice without washing them (use bleach in the load). It also doesn't hurt to take a shower before you leave the gym.
  • Cuts and scrapes: You can also prevent MRSA infections by cleaning cuts and scrapes with alcohol and properly bandaging them. Be sure to ask your doctor what kind of ointment to use -- antibacterial ointments may only make the MRSA problem worse.
  • Clean hands: Simply washing your hands helps, too. Throughout the day we touch all manner of things other people have touched: ATMs, doorknobs, flush handles on toilets. It's a good idea to wash your hands as often as possible. The Mayo Clinic also recommends you sanitize your hands with a liquid or gel sanitizer that's at least 62 percent alcohol. This comes in handy whenever there's not a restroom nearby.

It's also important to have yourself screened if you think you may have a MRSA infection. Stopping the infection before it spreads too deeply greatly increases your chances of avoiding a life-threatening situation.

Infections contracted within a health-care setting make up around 85 percent of all MRSA cases [source: CDC]. An estimated 1.2 million people become infected with MRSA annually during a hospital stay [source: Mayo Clinic]. It's a good idea to make sure the people who are helping you get well don't accidentally make you worse.

  • Your health-care worker: Hospitals house sick people, and health-care workers can easily spread MRSA through improper hand washing. Don't be afraid to ask your healthcare provider to wash his or her hands whenever she touches you. Be sure the workers use alcohol-based disinfectants and soap.
  • Treatment devices: You can also get a leg up on MRSA by making sure that any type of instrument the hospital uses for your treatment or care is sterile. When health-care workers use an instrument for an invasive procedure -- such as dialysis -- ask them to disinfect the area around the point of entry with alcohol.
  • A nice bath: If you're bedridden, you can request to be bathed with disposable cloths and disinfectant instead of reusable towels and soap and water.

For more information on infection and treatments, visit the next page.


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