Did you know MRSA kills more Americans each year than AIDS?

Staphyloccus aureaus or staphStaphylococcus aureus (pronounced staf-ill-oh-KOK-us AW-ree-us), or “Staph”, is a very common germ about a third of the population carries on their skin or in their nose. This bacteria does not cause a problem for most people who have it on their skin, but sometimes it can cause serious infections.

Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus Aureus (MRSA) is a type of staph bacteria that is resistant to many antibiotics so is sometimes called a “superbug”.

In the community, most MRSA infections are skin infections that are minor (like a pimple, bump or boil) and can be treated with antibiotics. However, it can quickly turn into deep, painful abscesses that require surgical draining. Sometimes the bacteria remain confined to the skin, but they can also penetrate into the body, causing potentially life-threatening infections in bones, joints, surgical wounds, the bloodstream, heart valves and lungs. The vast majority of serious infections are linked to health care exposure like hospitals and nursing homes.

A few years ago the CDC and The Journal of the American Medical Association reported MRSA is killing more Americans each year than AIDS. That year there were nearly 19,000 MRSA deaths while roughly 16,000 people in the U.S. died from AIDS.

According to WebMD, bug bites, rashes, and other skin conditions can sometimes be confused with MRSA because the symptoms may be similar: red, swollen, warm, or tender.

spider bite versus MRSA

ER doctors routinely ask patients who arrive with a painful spider bite whether they actually saw the spider, because these “bites” so often turn out to be MRSA instead. When a skin infection spreads or does not improve after 2-3 days on usual antibiotics, it may be MRSA.

How does MRSA spread?

MRSA can spread through physical contact with an infected person or something you’ve touched. Conditions that help to spread MRSA include: close skin-to-skin contact; cuts or scrapes in the skin; sharing personal hygiene articles such as razors and towels; and contact with contaminated items including door handles and athletic equipment.

Staph infections, including MRSA, occur most often in hospitals, nursing homes and facilities where people have weakened immune systems. MRSA also threatens police, firefighters and EMS workers, school kids and the community in general.

It also appears MRSA has jumped from humans to household pets, where it can linger without obvious symptoms — and possibly reinfect the pet owners. Only community-acquired strains have been found in cats and dogs so far. And WebMD reports MRSA has been found in the sand and water at beaches in Washington State.

What to do to reduce the spread of MRSA (and other infectious diseases)..

  • Wash hands often using soap and water or use hand sanitizer (with at least 60% alcohol in it) to reduce the spread of germs. But keep in mind sanitizers don’t work against some bugs like C. diff so it’s best to wash up.
  • Tell healthcare workers and visitors to wash their hands before they touch you or your stuff — don’t be timid! Also remember staph can reside on stethoscopes, blood pressure cuffs and other medical devices so ask if they’ve been cleaned lately.
  • Use antibiotics only when absolutely necessary. Consider boosting your immune system to help fight infections.
  • Keep cuts and scrapes clean and covered until healed.
  • Clean counters, doorknobs, fixtures, phones, remotes, nurse call buttons, linens, etc. often with a bleach solution.
  • Don’t share silverware, razors, clothing, towels, or bedding and wash objects with soap and hot water.

Additional Resources:

CDC’s MRSA page

CDC’s FAQs About MRSA (1-pg PDF)

MRSA Survivors Network

WebMD’s MRSA Slideshow

8 Responses to Did you know MRSA kills more Americans each year than AIDS?

  1. newshound says:

    I live in Hawaii where “superbugs” are rampant. Hawaii has the highest MRSA infections in the nation, double the national average. A small hospital on the NE side of Oahu sees 2-3 human MRSA cases in just 1 ER shift. The State’s excuse is there is no $$$. There is also no reporting protocol.

    In November 2011 I took my healthy dog to the Vet. He was given a drug (even though an earlier blood test showed he could not tolerate) that caused a side effect – skin lesions. The lesions got infected and spread but rather than applying the appropriate diagnostic techniques and exercising judicious antibiotic use, the Vet prescribed 4 different antibiotics. Because of this, he developed 5 Multi Resistant infections (MRSS, STREP GROUP A, PSEUDOMONAS, ESCHERICHIA COLI, KLEBSIELLA
    PNEUMONIAE). Five months later, he had to be put down.

    Both the MRSS and STREP were found to be RESISTANT to ALL antibiotics. During the 5 months, of care, the Vet/Clinic told us that there was no need to take any extra precautions (NO gloves or gowns needed when treating the dog) and they even had us stay in the waiting room with other humans and animals AFTER he was diagnosed. The Vet actually took a culture while we were sitting in the waiting room!

    Despite all 5 bacteria, they insisted he was NOT contagious. (I did try to find another vet but each one I contacted refused to see my dog and said they did not want to get involved…)

    I contacted every organization (both State & private), even contacted the Dept. of Health, the Hawaii Vet Board, the State Vet and even the Federal Vet and OSHA. No one felt it was in the least bit important. There was no concern about the public’s health and the companion animal population.

    Ironically, when I tried to inform the public concerning Multi Resistant infections and pets, I was threatened with a lawsuit by the Animal Clinic.

    Indiscriminate antibiotic use in veterinary medicine poses significant human health implications. We need to focus on prudent use of antibiotics NOW not later.

  2. itsadisaster says:

    Wow .. that’s terrible and so sorry for your loss. It’s frustrating to witness / experience something like that and not have anyone pay attention. And so agree with you .. WAY too many antibiotics are used in human and animal health practice, in food industry, etc.

    No idea if they can help but you might want to submit your story to Jeanine Thomas, founder of MRSA Survivors Network since their organization has some high profile physician contacts within healthcare industry and strong proponents of sounding MRSA alarm. Link is above but it’s http://www.mrsasurvivors.org (also, when on their site, check out first article under “News & PR” to see some things they’re working on).

    Or maybe reach out to American Veterinary Medical Association at http://www.avma.org or 800.248.2862 so they can help push more MRSA awareness out to AVMA members and Vet community. They have some MRSA data on site (did a search) but never hurts to share. (Fyi – Dr. Heather Case is director of AVMA’s Scientific Activities Division so she might be a good place to start.)

    Best of luck and thank you for stopping by and sharing this. And please keep in touch, if you’d like. j

    • peggysuewalter says:

      Thank you so much for your reply.  I did contact Jeanine, she was not surprised. I contacted the AVMA and they were beyond not concerned.  They recommended I contact the Hawaii VMA and the guy in charge was really nasty.  He said all Vets in Hawaii know about judicious use of antibiotics and implied it was probably my fault.

      I have contacted so many people/organizations and so far no one is the least bit concerned. I was shocked at first, now I am used to it.  Most of the time, no one responds to my email, especially the Veterinarian profession.  Public health I guess is not a real priority.

      When the Vet/clinic threatened me to keep quiet, I have made it my mission to do the opposite!!!

      I will for sure stay in touch!

      Take care, jen


      • itsadisaster says:

        Good grief – how friggin’ frustrating. We’ll keep our feelers out there and keep you posted if we find any other contacts. Sadly the medical system (for both 2- and 4-legged patients) is sometimes more interested in CYA rather than what’s best for society, and unfortunately may get worse in the years to come. Stay safe, reach out to us anytime (see “Contact us” link at top) and thanks again for sharing. Aloha! j (& B)

  3. Jeff says:

    Contact the media

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