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State Health Director: MRSA Very Common Like Cold, Flu

Posted October 24, 2007

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— The state health director is urging residents not to overreact when it comes to MRSA, a staph infection that has many people on edge.

Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus Aureus (MRSA) is a severe skin infection caused by bacteria resistant to common antibiotics.

The infected area starts as a bump that looks like a pimple or insect bite. The bump later turns red, starts to swell and fills with pus. If left untreated, the lesion can become hard and painful. MRSA can lead to an infection of the bloodstreem or joints, pneumonia or other severe infections.

Officials said the infection contributed to the death of a Virginia teen and also prompted 21 schools to close for disinfecting. Earlier in October, six East Forsyth High School football players were diagnosed with it.

Still, State Health Director Dr. Leah Devlin said staph infections, including the MRSA kind, are so common doctors aren't even required to report them to the state.

"MRSA is very common like the common cold and like influenza, so common we can't require all this to be reported," she said.

Devlin said staph is so common that 25 percent to 30 percent of people have it on their skin at any given time, and most people will never get sick from it.

Two Wake County schools notified parents this week that a student at each site had been diagnosed with MRSA infections. Devlin said health leaders are working with schools to make sure they understand what works and what doesn't when it comes to dealing with the infection.

"Kids can go to school if they have an infection on their skin, even if it is MRSA. They just need to keep the wound completely covered. That's what is most important," Devlin said.

Devlin said it is not necessary to shut down a school when a student has MRSA. Rather, everyone should just practice good hygiene.

"Washing hands, covering wounds are really the important strategies to use to prevent transmission," she said.

Officials said numbers on MRSA cases are hard to come by since no one is required to report them to the state health department.

MRSA infections were once seen almost exclusively in hospitals, nursing homes and other health care settings. Devlin said about 85 percent of infections still happen in those settings.

28 Comments

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  • sjmr1216 Oct 25, 2007

    as long as you're not an idiot and practice good hygiene...you'll be fine. you don't have to worry until it gets into your blood stream anyway. just make sure you don't overwash or overclean...your body has to have some practice at fighting infections...

  • Fiddlemom Oct 25, 2007

    It is good that the public is now aware of MRSA.
    I am a health care worker in a long-term care facility and we have been dealing with MRSA for years. It is one nasty bug. It usually attacks those with weakened immune systems, debilitated conditions, but now it is appearing in our society and we deem it ''community acquired mrsa". Normally in our nursing home environment when we suspect it we do a ''culture and sensitivity" which narrows it down to what actual bacteria or virus it is and which drug to treat it with. Vancomycin is usually one of the few that will touch it and it is usually given intravenously.
    This may be only the beginning of the superbugs that we have tod deal with. Beware folks, there is another one called VRE,
    (vancomycin resistant enterococcus) that hasnt really made it out into the neigborhood yet.
    Bottom line, GOOD HANDWASHING!

  • peppercorns Oct 25, 2007

    like I was saying....
    – I’d rather wash or wipe my hands, then do that again.
    It is far more dangerous is you get MRSA in the lungs. Be cautious around sick people.
    I was lucky and believe me I am very thankful for a speedy recovery compared to some. Be smart.

  • peppercorns Oct 25, 2007

    To my knowledge, there were 97 cases reported so far this year in the triangle area. I was one. It is not as bad as they are making it sound but we all should be careful. I got it at a local hospital after surgery- so mine was not a hygiene issue. Lucky for me, I am fairly healthy and middle-aged. The elderly and the young must be very careful.
    If you have a sore that does not seem to go away and/or seems to be increasing in size - then go to the doctor.
    Wash you hands whenever you touch things in places outside your home. After shopping, before eating, and such. Carry antibacterial wipes in your car if you snack and wash before eating at a restaurant. This is especially true for children. Mother should make their kids use the wipes before they eat and after they play on equipment. Adults need to be cautious of gym equipment and multi-person items. I know it is annoying but considering my mild case caused me to get an IV line directly into my heart for several weeks – I’d

  • sallysmom Oct 24, 2007

    Also bbad,
    Where did you get your 18% death rate? I'd love to read more about this.

  • sallysmom Oct 24, 2007

    Here's some info from cnn:
    The researchers' estimates are extrapolated from 2005 surveillance data from nine mostly urban regions considered representative of the country. There were 5,287 invasive infections reported that year in people living in those regions, which would translate to an estimated 94,360 cases nationally, the researchers said.

    Most cases were life-threatening bloodstream infections. However, about 10 percent involved so-called flesh-eating disease, according to the study led by researchers at the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

    There were 988 reported deaths among infected people in the study, for a rate of 6.3 per 100,000. That would translate to 18,650 deaths annually, although the researchers don't know if MRSA was the cause in all cases.

    So...the 19,000 death rate was an extrapolation from a study, not a reported actual figure.
    bbad, I'm not saying it's not serious...it's just right now, this is the flavor of the week for the media.

  • bbad238 Oct 24, 2007

    There are so many misconceptions out there. MRSA is every bit as serious as you read here and not overhyped. I don't know where people get off comparing it with West Nile or Bird Flu. Sure those didn't exactly "hit" North Carolina, but MRSA has! If you don't believe this, it's only because you haven't contracted it and been to a doctor's office recently. It's not true that "some immune systems handle it and some dont". If you come in contact with MRSA, you will almost certainly contract it or you will become a carrier, in which case you won't get sick but infect others. It's extremely contagious through personal contact. The only thing common between a cold and MRSA are several methods by which they're contracted (Ie.. personal contact, touching used sports equipment). A strong immune system is no defense against contracting MRSA.

  • J3ssie231 Oct 24, 2007

    Someone got a staph infection at our school and it could be MRSA.
    18% of people with MRSA die
    Thats not exactly comforting
    and I wouldn't say its something we shouldn't worry about
    It can spread easily through sports teams since they get cuts and scratches all the time.
    I don't think its the end of the world or anything, but this should definitely raise concern.

  • sallysmom Oct 24, 2007

    I'm not dismissing the seriousness of this, but the media hypes these things to an extreme. West Nile virus, avian flu, even a "flu pandemic," now MSRA--the media has sworn each one of these was going to wipe out the human race.

    I do agree with the post about the use of antibiotics. People use them and doctors prescribe them way too frequently. Then people only take them until they feel better and don't finish out their course. This allows the more resistant bacteria to live on and replicate. Eventually the bacteria strains become resistant. MSRA may not be it, but something is going to do major damage if we aren't more careful with the use of antibiotics.

  • smcallah Oct 24, 2007

    Finally, a news story that isn't building on the fear of the viewers.

    Just like shark attacks that one year, and SARS, and West Nile, and Bird Flu, I thought this was going to be the year of MSRA.

    But now a real story comes out that says what is true about it. Staph is out there, most immune systems handle it, some don't.

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