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Now How Did That Happen?
June 16, 2009
One of my friends is coming over today for lunch. I’m excited. It’s just what I need — some company, food that isn’t pretty much the same thing except for a different sandwich filling, and some laughs. If the sun would shine, the day would be perfect.
I think it’s the circumstances. Except for three weekends away and forays to the doctor, I’ve been confined to the house since early April. Steps. There are steps to maneuver to get in and out of the house. Down isn’t so bad; up is like climbing Mt. Everest. I begin to dread it as soon as the car enters the neighborhood.
Then there’s my latest piece of news: I have MRSA.
MSRA, which stands for methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus, is a superbug, and it requires super antibiotics to kill it. Should I mention the wonderful gastrointestinal niceties that super antibiotics come with?
How did I get MRSA? Darned if I know! I’ve been in the hospital for surgery a couple of times, I go to the doctor a lot, I’ve had visiting nurses, and then there is my husband, who changes my dressings. I have not been touched with bare hands and, except for when the dressing for my surgical incision is changed, the area is covered.
It used to be that MRSA occurred only in hospitals and other health-care places such as nursing homes. That’s now called health-care–associated MRSA, or HA-MRSA because — guess what? — it’s out in the general community now. That form is called community-associated MRSA, or CA-MRSA.
CA-MRSA is said to happen most frequently in younger people, which the Mayo Clinic opines is probably due to immature immune systems and a lack of antibodies to some germs. Participation in contact sports and sharing towels, athletic equipment, and other items in the locker room is another risk factor. A weakened immune system (we all know about those) is another risk factor. And so is (my fave) living in crowded or unsanitary conditions such as a military training camp or a prison.
The list of risk factors for HA-MRSA is shorter: Hospitalization (recent or current), living in a long-term care facility, invasive devices (such as catheters or feeding tubes), or recent antibiotic use.
Ya gotta be careful out there. Keep an eye on cuts and scrapes — no matter how minor — to watch for infection. See a doctor if an infection occurs, and ask to be tested for MRSA before taking any antibiotics. If it is MRSA, the wrong antibiotic could make things worse.
Prevention is pretty much common sense: Wash your hands frequently and make sure health-care workers wash their hands every time before they touch you. Don’t share personal items, shower after engaging in athletic practice or games, keep your wounds covered, and wash your linens in hot water.
Above all, don’t insist on taking antibiotics if they aren’t needed. That’s what got us into this mess in the first place: Germs are evolving because of overuse of antibiotics. Of course, there’s that thing about antibiotics in our food and water supplies, thanks to antibiotics being added to animal feed and things like flushing drugs down the toilet.
In the meantime, I’ll keep on trucking along as best I can. A call to my doctor is in order for today, and tomorrow I get to go out. I have a doctor’s appointment.
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