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Referred to by patients as “the superbacteria”, “the flesh-eating bacteria”, and even the “Am I going to die from whatever this is?” bacteria.
BY MAGAZINE COLUMNIST ELIZABETH GOLDBERG, M.D., FAAD
Dr. Goldberg is Director of Urban Dermatology, New York, NY
WIth summer behind us, hopefully I can worry less about how much sun you are all getting.
As we discussed earlier this year, you know the importance of wearing and reapplying sunscreen at regular intervals every day!
As you know from my previous posts, I always have something on my mind and so many things I want to share with you. One issue that comes up a lot is MRSA, also known as Methicillin Resistant Staphylococcus Aureus. It has been referred to by patients as “the superbacteria”, “the flesh-eating bacteria”, and even the “Am I going to die from whatever this is”? bacteria.
The truth is MRSA can be a serious matter, although after reading this you all will be so well informed that it will never become serious for any of you.
Pumped up staph: fast and mean
You are all saying, “So what is it exactly?” MRSA is a bacterial infection. Staphylococcus aureus is a common bacteria of the skin that can become an infection, easily cured by antibiotics. It got smart and made itself resistant to some of the commonly used antibiotics. The problem is it can spread rapidly and even become fatal.
Now, let’s be clear here. Some people have MRSA on them all the time and this is called “colonization”. This is a benign state… Until somewhere there is an opening of the skin which could simply be a hair follicle, or something more obvious as a cut or abrasion which allows the bacteria to invade.
Prior to ten years ago, MRSA was generally a disease seen in hospital settings and rarely in the community at large. Although more prevalent in the general population than in the past, MRSA can be less worrisome because we are aware of its existence, and it can be treated with early diagnosis.
How does one get MRSA? This potentially deadly infection is spread by contact with the bacteria, either from an infected person or by contact with a contaminated object that an infected person has touched.
Sounds simple, right? The problem is you don’t always know when you have contacted it. For all you readers, here is a take home point: some of the items where it is often transmitted are yoga mats, towels, gym equipment, razors, and plain old “dirty places”.
One of the best ways to avoid MRSA is good basic hygiene.
1 I can not stress the importance of good hand washing – keep your hands clean.
2 Use a clean towel on shared equipment such as gym equipment and yoga mats. If at all possible use your own mat and clean it off on occasion.
3 Shower as soon as you can after activities where you may be at risk.
4 Never share a razor and dispose frequently of the one you are using.
Some signs of an MRSA infection
Now I’ll talk a bit about how MRSA presents itself and what can be done for it.
MRSA, like any other infection, can present as a simple “pimple”, more accurately a pustule, or a cut or sore that is progressively getting worse and not healing. Usually it will be surrounded by some redness and tenderness. Of course there is a spectrum and if your “pimple” becomes redder, more painful and starts to spread over days instead of getting better it is time to get it evaluated. If you develop any generalized symptoms such as a fever or chills, you require immediate medical attention.
Once you have decided to seek medical attention, there are a few possibilities as far as remedying the situation. It is impossible to tell if an infection is MRSA without a bacterial culture so it is imperative that the area be drained and a swab be taken to send to the lab. Simple drainage of the abscess by a qualified medical professional can often be curative. However, a lot of the time antiobiotics will be given to cure the infection.
Please, if you are diagnosed, keep the area covered so it doesn’t it spread to others.
Stay healthy – stay active!
I hope this has clarified any confusion you may have had on what MRSA is and ways you may be able to avoid it. Most importantly, I hope you all understand that it is something that can be taken care of and as I like to say, “Let me do the worrying for you.”
Do not let the risk of MRSA deter you from engaging in any of the great things you do for your health like being at the gym or yoga studio! Hopefully I’ll see you there soon!
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Name may be withheld by request.
© 2011, The Magazine of Yoga, LLC.