Americans endure over 80,000 methicillin-resistant (MRSA) infections per year. Spread through bodily contact, this bacterium causes mild skin conditions like sores or boils most often. But it also can be life threatening, infecting surgical wounds, your bloodstream, lungs or urinary tract.
This super bug is harder to treat than most staph strains because it’s resistant to some common antibiotics. At one time, MRSA was a problem just in hospitals. But today, it lurks in your everyday environment. Research has discovered unlikely ways you can contract MRSA and how to protect yourself and others from infection.
A recent study identified 3000 types of bacteria on dollar bills from a Manhattan, N.Y., bank. Most of the bacteria were microbes that occur on the skin and lead to mild conditions such as acne. But others matched those that arise in mouths and even vaginas. Jane Carlton, lead investigator and director of genome sequencing at New York University’s Center for Genomics and Systems Biology, found that some money contained MRSA.
Bills the team collected in winter were more likely to have community-acquired pneumonia microbes than those from summer months. Carlton concluded that paper currency can function as a form of bacterial transmission. But she and her fellow NYU biologists saw no reason to overreact. “Microbes are so important, are very ubiquitous, and they surround us all the time,” she said.
According to a new study, bacteria can linger on aircraft cabin surfaces as invisible passengers for up to a week. Study author Kiril Vaglenov and other Auburn University researchers contaminated sample seat pocket, armrest, tray table, window shade and toilet button materials with two disease-causing germs. MRSA survived a week on a seat-back pocket. E.Coli O157:H7, which can lead to diarrhea and dangerous illnesses, lived on an armrest four days.
The World Health Organization recommends airlines tidy up during transit stops and conduct more intensive cleanings every 24 hours. Vaglenov said his findings should prompt airlines to explore new ways to clean and disinfect susceptible surfaces more effectively, perhaps even incorporating fabrics with antimicrobial properties into aircraft interiors.
People leave bacteria in public places, said Dr. Christopher Ohl, professor of infectious diseases at Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center. Research shows that certain fabrics are easier to clean than others, so they get the most attention. While cleanliness is important, Ohl noted that airlines can’t sterilize cabins completely. Fortunately, research supports the five-second rule. If something stays on a dirty surface within that time limit, it has a lower chance of contamination.
Dr. Charles Gerba, a microbiologist at Arizona University, also tested tray tables on four aircrafts. He detected MRSA on at least one tray per flight plus influenza and norovirus once on each plane. Gerba noted that E. coli contamination is common in restrooms on long flights with 50 people per toilet. But taking personal precautionary measures while traveling can help. Wash your hands or use your hand sanitizer frequently — especially before eating. Clean surfaces with disinfectant wipes before touching them. Shower as soon as possible after arriving at your destination.
Basketballs and Volleyballs
University of California researchers discovered that basketballs and volleyballs harbor staph bacteria including MRSA. With each dribble, basketballs accumulated more of the germs. Worse yet, they survived on the balls for three days in storage-room conditions. Playing basketball is a great workout, so don’t let this keep you off the court. Cover up any open cuts before starting a game, wash your hands right after the final buzzer sounds and then shower as soon as possible.
Researchers determined that half of the U.S. supermarket meat they sampled contained staph bacteria including MRSA. According to the study that appeared in the Clinical Infectious Diseases journal, turkey products were the most likely to incorporate staph bacteria, followed by pork and chicken products. One major factor fueling MRSA’s spread involves the standard practice of treating animals with antibiotics to counteract dirty factory and farm conditions. This accounts for more than 80 percent of America’s antibiotic usage.
Until the U.S. follows Denmark’s lead by offering a less drugged-up meat supply, you should take extra steps to prevent MRSA threats. Choose drug-free organic, Certified Humane or Animal Welfare Approved meat to stop this virulent infection from spreading. Or find a local farmer who raises meat without using antibiotics. Always wash your hands after handling raw meat and clean all surfaces that it touches.
Precautions and Treatment
MRSA infections are common among people with weak immune systems and those in hospitals, nursing homes and other healthcare centers. Community-associated MRSA, or CA-MRSA, skin infections occur among team athletes, military recruits and prison inmates who share close quarters or have more skin-to-skin contact. But MRSA infections are becoming more widespread in the general community.
Reduce your infection risk by:
Covering any open wounds.
Washing your hands frequently.
Showering before and after using pools, hot tubs, saunas and fitness centers.
Laundering your exercise clothes after each gym session.
If you suspect an infection, see your doctor for prompt diagnosis and treatment.Vancocin antibiotic capsules and injections kill bacteria to help reduce and eliminate infections from your body.
While you have a bacterial infection, prevent spreading it by:
Washing your clothes, bedding and towels in hot water to kill bacteria.
Disinfecting surfaces you touch thoroughly with bleach.