In last month’s article we discussed what MRSA stands for, and how it is defined and identified. Many people may carry MRSA on their skin without having any negative side effects. These people are “carriers” of MRSA and are “colonized” but they are not infected.
Bacteria typically may be found in skin folds, the rectum, and the nasal passages of everyone. A person might become infected from several different sources. MRSA can be transferred from one skin surface to another and may become an infection if it is able to enter into a break in the skin. This type of break in the skin could be from eczema,a bug bite, or even small excoriations from constant diaper changing.
We constantly slough off skin cells and these may come into contact with other people from direct contact, off of play equipment, or shared linens. We also can transfer our own skin cells from one area of our body to another. Therefore, an infection that initially is isolated to one place may spread to another.
Typically a MRSA infection progresses relatively rapidly. A parent might notice a few red bumps that seemingly overnight grow into an angry tender red lump. Any rapid increase in warmth, redness, or tenderness should be brought to medical attention. A head or pustule may be noted in the center of the red lesion. A doctor will use a swab in order to culture this area and identify MRSA or other types of bacteria. Under no circumstances should a parent “pop” the lesion or squeeze it. This could actually worsen the infection forcing it deeper into the skin and soft tissue.
Most MRSA infections, if caught early, can be treated with oral antibiotics. However, there are occasions when more aggressive treatment is required. MRSA infections in very young or elderly patients can be more complicated. The infection might involve a joint or have spread to the respiratory system. In these cases intravenous antibiotics and a hospital stay would not be uncommon.
In any situation that MRSA is suspected, medical attention is required. This is to insure prompt diagnosis and treatment before others in close contact with the patient might also become infected.
Families who have experienced a MRSA infection should follow a few simple procedures in an attempt to avoid repeat infection. First, during the outbreak, family members may be given an intranasal antibiotic ointment to apply. This is to decrease any colonization they may have. This is the only medical intervention for those not actively showing an infection. Thereafter, families should follow a strict policy of frequent hand washing. There should be no sharing of towels or other linens. And most helpful would be frequent cleaning of common areas, particularly bathrooms where skin cells are often shed during bathing.