Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus Aureus, often referred to as MRSA, has worked its way into the public consciousness because of high profile incidents reported by media. But the term ORSA—Oxacillin-resistant Staphylococcus Aureus—is also beginning to crop up as hospitals test patients for strains of Staphylococcus Aureus that are antibiotic-resistant. Oxacillin, like Methicillin, is just another member of the Penicillin family. In the past, such infections were largely confined to healthcare institutions. Nowadays community acquired strains are showing up, sometimes with fatal consequences especially in the young and elderly or immuno-suppressed. However, community strains are still far rarer than those associated with hospitals or nursing homes.
Prevention for communicating the bacteria is very basic and similar to methods for preventing most communicable illnesses. The Florida Dept. of Health recommends the following measures:
• Wash hands frequently, both children and adults, whenever they are soiled or
have been exposed to materials that may be contaminated.
• Schools should provide soap and towels in rest rooms so children can wash their
• Be careful when doing activities that may result in cuts and scratches.
• Wash cuts and scratches with soap and water and then keep them clean and dry.
• Keep skin infections such as boils or infected wounds covered and treat them
promptly with both local care (such as drainage of boils) and appropriate
antibiotics for the entire duration, as prescribed by your healthcare provider.
• Do not participate in contact sports if you have a skin infection unless the lesions
can be securely covered.
It’s important to note when you’re washing your hands, use friction rather than gentle motion, and it’s a good idea to wash the area all the way to your wrists.
When a tragedy occurs, media report it widely if it’s health-related. A few cases of antibiotic resistant bacteria even showed up in those who’d gotten tattoos a few years ago. But ORSA and MRSA can be prevented and even treated successfully in most cases. If you have a loved one in the hospital and a test is given for resistant bacteria, don’t let it frighten you. Such testing is done in many facilities as a routine screening procedure.
[Text by Kay B. Day; photo from Centers for Disease Control.]