Anti-biotic resistant strains of Staphylococcus aureus will kill 19,000 Americans this year. That total is 3,000 more than the Center for Disease Control’s projected death toll for the AIDS virus.
According to the new CDC study, in 2005 invasive Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus infected 32 of every 100,000 U.S. residents. The ratio was extremely high in the elderly, with an estimated 128 cases per every 100,000 residents over the age of 65. Elizabeth Bancroft, an infectious disease specialist, projects that even more cases will strike the nation’s hospitals and nursing homes as the population continues to age.
WebMD has identified a list of MRSA “hot spots”:
Basically, any setting where there is crowding, lots of skin contact, and a lack of good hygiene can become a spot for MRSA breakouts.
Unfortunately, lately this has included hospitals and nursing homes as well. The reason for this is two-fold. First, patients in hospitals and nursing homes have compromised immune systems to begin with. MRSA is actually present in 60-80% of the population, but it does not become dangerous until it becomes “invasive.”
The second reason is that close contact with multiple patients in hospitals and nursing homes requires constant hand washing. A single negligent doctor or nurse who fails to properly scrub in between rooms can spread a staph infection to an entire hall. According to a report from the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality, as many as 5% of the people treated in U.S. hospitals for MRSA died of infection in 2005.
The risk of MRSA infection is especially great in dialysis patients, whose risk of infection can be up to 100 times greater than the general population. One study indicated that the overall incidence was 45 cases per 1,000 dialysis patients. The majority of these infections occurred in the bloodstream and a whopping 90% of the infections required hospitalization.
While MRSA can be a deadly infection, taking some relatively simple steps can help you protect yourself from harm. WebMD suggests the following ways to prevent getting or spreading the infection:
- Frequently and thoroughly washing your hands.
- Covering cuts and scrapes with clean bandages.
- Avoiding contact with other’s wounds and bandages.
- Avoid sharing personal items such as towels or razors.
- Wipe down any surfaces you come into contact with at the gym or in a locker room.
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