Could you or your child contract a CA-MRSA infection?
This past weekend, my son Ethan got a blister on his right hand on the tip of his index finger. When he showed it to me, I didn’t think much of it. I told him to let it go, and it would pop on its own. Two days later the blister covered his entire fingertip. It had hardened and appeared to be filled with yellow puss. Concerned that it was now infected, I took him to the doctor on Monday. I was shocked when the doctor informed me he had an MRSA infection. I had only heard of MRSA infections in hospitals and nursing homes. I never considered that my healthy, 10-year-old son could acquire an MRSA infection.
The doctor prescribed an oral antibiotic, a sulfa medication and an ointment. She explained that the infection is highly contagious until 24 hours after taking the antibiotic. She instructed, “No sharing hand towels,” and “Be sure to wash his bedding and wipe down household surfaces.”
I went into combat mode! I got the prescriptions, got Ethan home, explained to him that he needed to be careful not to touch anything with his right hand, to eat healthy foods to help his body fight off the infection and to take all his medicine. Of course I was careful to talk with him without concern in my voice, because he picks up on my anxiety and then multiplies it! Then I went online to learn everything I could about MRSA. I wanted to know how he possibly got the infection, how common it is, how to treatable it is and how to kill the germs in my house.
I learned that:
- There are Community Associated Methicillin Resistant Staphylococcus Aureus (CA-MRSA) infections and Healthcare Associated MRSA infections. Most CA-MRSA infections are skin infections that may appear as blisters or boils that often are red, swollen, painful, or have pus or other drainage. These skin infections commonly occur at sites of visible skin trauma, such as cuts and abrasions.
- CA-MRSA is most commonly transmitted by direct skin-to-skin contact or contact with shared items or surfaces that have come into contact with someone else’s infection (e.g., towels, used bandages). MRSA skin infections can occur anywhere. Some settings have factors that make it easier for MRSA to be transmitted. These factors, referred to as the 5 C’s, are as follows: Crowding, frequent skin-to skin Contact, Compromised skin (i.e., cuts or abrasions), Contaminated items and surfaces, and lack of Cleanliness. Locations where the 5 C’s are common include schools, dormitories, military barracks, households, correctional facilities, and daycare centers.
- Almost all MRSA skin infections can be effectively treated by drainage of pus, with or without antibiotics.
- You can protect yourself from getting an MRSA infection and help prevent its spread by:
- practicing good hygiene (e.g., keeping your hands clean by washing with soap and water or using an alcohol-based hand sanitizer and showering immediately after participating in exercise);
- covering skin trauma such as abrasions or cuts with a clean dry bandage until healed;
- avoiding sharing personal items (e.g., towels, razors) that come into contact with your bare skin; and using a barrier (e.g., clothing or a towel) between your skin and shared equipment such as weight-training benches;
- maintaining a clean environment by establishing cleaning procedures for frequently touched surfaces and surfaces that come into direct contact with people’s skin.
After searching the Internet, I read on Facebook that the 5-year-old daughter of a former classmate of mine had an MRSA infection that resulted in several hospital admissions and surgery. I know this infection can be very resistant to antibiotics, and that it can be serious, even life threatening. At the clinic, the doctor drew all around the red swollen part of Ethan’s finger with her pen and told me that if the redness spread past the ink line to bring him back to the hospital immediately. I’ve been watching the ink line like a hawk.
I also talked to my sister, an RN, about Ethan’s infection. She was shocked. Then one of the first things she said was, “You’re going to have to get rid of your cats. He most likely got it from your cats!” My heart sank. Up until this point, all the medical sites I researched did not mention anything about MRSA in cats. So, I Googled “MRSA in cats.” I read a story about a woman who had repeat occurrences of MRSA, and who eventually learned she was contracting the virus from her cat. http://voices.yahoo.com/mrsa-got-mrsa-our-cat-4118993.html?cat=5. Then I read the headline, “Homes with cats 8 times more likely to contain MRSA.” My stress level started to rise. But after reading that article and others, I learned that the risk of getting an MRSA infection from your pet is very low. Whew! But being the mama bear that I am, I called my vet to get his opinion. The vet technician I spoke with said they have never had a case of MRSA in a cat. She asked if my cats had any lesions, and I said, “No, I have never noticed any lesions on my house cats.” She said it is very unlikely that my cat has MRSA. Big sigh of relief!
So, today I am cleaning house! I wiped down all surfaces including door knobs, light switches, toys, etc. I am washing all bedding, blankets and laundry. The one good thing to come from this is that my house will get a good cleaning! I’ll also be giving my Ethan all the TLC he can take!
For more answers to frequently asked questions about MRSA infections, go to the state’s Center for Disease Control website, specifically http://www.ndhealth.gov/disease/Documents/MRSA_School_FAQ.pdf.By Beverly Unrath, Vice President Dakota Travel Nurse Home Care, Inc.