Virginia Governor Approves Emergency Regulation on MRSA

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Due to public hazard of MRSA Virginia now requires labs to report confirmed cases of MRSA.

Governor Timothy M. Kaine today approved an emergency regulation by the State Health Commissioner that requires laboratories to report Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) infection to the Virginia Department of Health (VDH). The regulation is effective today, and will assist public health authorities in the effort to compile data on the prevalence of MRSA for surveillance and investigation.

Today's action was prompted by concerns among citizens and health care professionals following the recent death of a Virginia teenager due to invasive MRSA, as well as the recent release of a study by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control identifying MRSA as a major public health problem in the United States.

"Our public health community is very concerned about the growing challenge of monitoring and controlling MRSA in both health care and community settings," Governor Kaine said. "The reporting of MRSA infections will allow VDH to respond to requests and expectations for data from the concerned public, health care professionals and policy makers."

Practical MRSA prevention measures include covering open wounds, frequent hand washing, and not sharing personal items such as towels, razors and athletic equipment. In addition, all athletic equipment and common areas should be regularly cleaned. People are advised to see a doctor if they have a wound that is red, has pus or is not healing properly.

"Analysis of surveillance data will provide vital insight on how the disease spreads, quantify the number of cases and the track patterns of MRSA infection in Virginia," said State Health Commissioner Robert B. Stroube, M.D., M.P.H. "In addition to reporting, our emphasis will be on prevention and intervention measures which include local health departments collaborating with local school divisions, increased public education, and communications with health care providers on the proper use of antibiotics."

VDH has additional consumer friendly information on its web site, www.vdh.virginia.gov about how to safeguard your health against all staph infections, including MRSA.

What is MRSA?

Staphylococcus aureus ("staph") is a common type of bacteria (germ) that is often found on the skin and in the nose of healthy people. It can also grow in wounds or other sites in the body, sometimes causing an infection. For example, staph is one of the most common causes of skin infections. Penicillin is a drug that was once commonly used to treat staph infections. However, over time many staph bacteria have become difficult to treat with penicillin and antibiotics related to penicillin. These new or resistant forms of Staphylococcus aureus are called methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus, or MRSA. The illnesses they cause are the same as those caused by other staph; the difference is in how they are treated.

Who is at risk for getting these organisms?

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Just like normal staph bacteria, MRSA normally does not cause disease unless it enters an opening in the skin. However, some people are at higher risk for carrying MRSA or becoming infected with this type of staph. MRSA more often occurs in people in hospitals and healthcare facilities. It can also occur outside the hospital in people who receive multiple antibiotics, as well as in people who have close contact with a person carrying the germ or by touching objects contaminated with MRSA (e.g., clothes, towels, bedding, athletic equipment, benches in saunas or hot tubs, bandages).

How are MRSA and other staph spread?

Staph bacteria (including MRSA) are most often spread by close contact with infected people or the things they touch. It is not spread through the air.

What are the symptoms of MRSA infection?

Many people carry staph bacteria on their skin without any symptoms. Symptoms of a MRSA or other staph infection depend on where the infection is located. Infections of the skin are the most common, and cause symptoms such as redness, warmth, pus and a wound that does not heal. Your doctor may refer to these infections as boils, furuncles, impetigo, or abscesses. Infections can also develop in the blood, bone, bladder, lungs, and other sites. Symptoms there will depend on the site of infection, but include fever and pain at the site.

What should I do if I think I have a MRSA or other staph infection?

See your healthcare provider.

Are MRSA and other staph infections treatable?

Yes. Some staph skin infections can be treated simply by draining the sore and keeping the wound clean. For more serious infections, antibiotics can be used to treat these infections. If antibiotics are prescribed by your healthcare provider, it is very important to finish taking all the pills and to call your doctor if the infection does not get better.

What can I do to prevent MRSA and other staph infections?

* Wash your hands often, especially when you're exposed to someone with an infection or when you touch objects that may be contaminated.
* Keep cuts and scrapes clean and covered.
* Avoid sharing personal items such as towels, sports equipment, razors, etc.
* If a sore or cut becomes red, oozes, causes pain or isn't healing, see a doctor.
* Don't insist on antibiotics for colds or other viruses.
* If prescribed antibiotics, take all the pills, even if you feel better before they are all gone.

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Comments

I have been in close contact with a friend who has been diagnosed with mersa ie washed her bed sheets touched her hands and kissed her cheek etc, and I have a small bump behind my ear that is red but does itch. Could this be a symptom or am I just being paranoid? I was also at her bedside in the hospital before she was diagnosed
Hi Catherine. MRSA spreads if there is any open area or any break in the skin's barrier. It does start like a pimple or boil often. You should have it checked by your doctor to be sure.