A super bug with a super long name is getting a lot of press lately. Necessary press too, I think. I am not talking about a six legged creature that crawls on your skin. No, I am talking about a strain of staph bacteria that are incredibly resistant to antibiotics. Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (that is the super long name), but referred to as MRSA, has caused more deaths each year in the US than AIDS.
MRSA was believed to be prevalent only in hospitals and nursing homes, but after a high school football player recently contracted the deadly strain of bacteria, investigations have found it at day care centers, gyms, and lockers rooms. The major culprit behind the spread of the MRSA is hygiene! The bacteria are easily thwarted by hand washing and proper hygiene. Although this strain of staph does not respond to penicillin or related antibiotics (it can be treated with other drugs), when on the surface of the skin or in the nose it is fairly harmless. It is when the bacteria enters the blood stream through an open wound that the infection can become deadly.
Since MRSA is actually fairly common, high school athletes are being told to wash their uniforms regularly, not to share uniforms and to shower. These measures should help prevent the bacteria spreading from athlete to athlete.
Over 85% of MRSA infections occur in medical settings, and hand washing standards will need to be increased to help keep the bacteria contained. I still think that 15% of the infections coming from outside medical facilities is way too high. I also think that 19,000 annual deaths are way too many. Hopefully, some new antibiotics will be coming our way soon to deal with these ever evolving super bugs!