MRSA and Caregivers.

MRSA and Caregivers.

There is perhaps nothing more frightening today than hearing the words antibiotic resistant.  And for the immunosuppressed, health care workers, and caregivers MRSA is the name of that fear.  Here is some information that may help understanding and dealing with this problem.

What is MRSA?  MRSA is a bacterium that’s resistant to treatment with commonly used antibiotics. MRSA stands for methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus, as stated By Kathleen Blanchard, R.N.  Kathleen Blanchard is far better at defining this than I am.  Maybe I can however come a bit closer to everyday language.  Bacteria we know is what cause infections and illnesses.  And resistant is when something is stronger than the cure.  Methicillin is the group name for the hallmark infection fighters (Penicillin, Ampicillin and so on).  Staphylococcus aureus is what we call “Staph Infection”.  We know how difficult it is to fight any infection when our immune system is not at its optimum.  And MRSA is spread very easily by touch, moisture droplets from sneezing or coughing, or by cleaning and touching of a wound area.

Our ability at this time to cure MRSA is not quite there.  It is being worked on and we will hopefully have a cure soon.  Here is where it can get tricky for a caregiver and/or family member.  Not only will this question (Did you have MRSA?) come up with each new physician, but with each hospitalization and frequently ‘Universal Precautions’ will be used.  Which are scary and concerning for those unaware of the situation?  Universal Precautions are when all treatment providers use cap, gown and mask when entering the room; and the door is mark with signage such as Infection Risk.

It can be a very uneasy feeling knowing that if you shake hands, hug or kiss a close member of your family or friend, you could be letting yourself in for this infection.  However, this is the case with everyone we meet.  One physician put it this way, ‘you are more likely to catch MRSA from a shopping cart than from human contact’, interesting isn’t it.  So what are our defenses of this infection?  These are the same precautions we should be using anyway. 

  • Wash hands often
  • Use sanitizing hand cleaner (always have one with you)
  • Use a tissue or your elbow to put over your mouth or nose in the event of a cough or sneeze.
  • Do not touch a sore or wound without protective gloves.

MRSA is found by a culture of the wound.  This is not something that can be found just by a simple blood test.  And what do they mean when we are told the infection has colonized.  Colonization of MRSA is just as it sounds, the infection has settled in one area of the body and can easily be cultured at that point.  Usually this spot is not symptomatic and is found when we have known information that the person has had an infection.

It is very important to remember that cleaning and being clean is the best defense.  How then did we get this bug in the first place?  Staphylococcus has been around for decades and was the driving force to the need, research, and ultimately production of Penicillin.  So it is not new, we are perhaps more aware of illness and infections than we once were.  One thing is new and that is our being resistant to not only antibiotics but also to other medications.  And there are many theories as to how we got here.  Of course the over use and improper use of antibiotics is on the list.  And there has been a lot of dialog concerning this issue.

Not all antibiotics and other medicines come to us, by way of the medical establishment; rather we get antibiotic and some other medicines through the food we eat.  And we must remember that we live in a world more populated than ever before.  When traveling we do so with larger numbers of people than ever before.  When traveling air or train, we are subjected to air filtered through a system we know little about.  When swimming in a public pool, we are there with the assumed knowledge of the water meeting certain standards.  This is only a small amount of risk taken on a daily basis.  The most important thing to take away from all of this is be clean, use clean utensils, know the people around you and use a certain amount of caution, just as you would if someone had a cold.

This is not something for the ordinary person to be afraid of.  For the immune suppressed population, take extra precautions but go about your life as you ordinarily would.  We live in a world of uncertainty, the greater majority of which is good, fun and beautiful.  We must not jeopardize our quality of life.  Just remember to take the precautions you have been told all of your life with washing hands, using clean utensils and alike.  We should always use caution when interacting with a person who has an infectious illness.  And remember to enjoy our quality of life.  Use precautions when hugging or kissing a person in a Skilled Nursing Home or Hospital only because they certainly do not need any more germs from us.  And should we come down with MRSA follow the precautions given by our physician.  And will all the precaution it is most important not to become so cautious that we are afraid.  Love your family and friends as they are precious and what life is all about.