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MRSA Rising: Who's at Risk?

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Updated: 8/04/2013 10:02 pm

May 28, 2007 -- A new study adds to concern that MRSA (methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus) is rising in communities.

Staph infection, including MRSA, usually affects the skin and is minor. But some staph infections are serious and may enter the blood or other parts of the body.

MRSA and other staph infections usually spread in hospitals or other health care facilities. But they can also happen in communities. Poor hygiene and crowded living conditions are risk factors.

The new MRSA study, published in the Archives of Internal Medicine, included patients treated from 2000 to 2005 at a large public hospital in Chicago -- the John H. Stroger Jr. Hospital of Cook County.

The researchers included Bala Hota, MD, MPH, of Chicago's Rush University. They focused on patients who didn't get MRSA in a hospital or other health care facility.

MRSA Rising

Hota's team studied tissue culturesfrom patients with no hospitalizations or surgeries in the previous year.

They found nearly a sevenfold increase in community-acquired MRSA infections during the years studied, rising from 24 cases per 100,000 people in 2000 to 164 cases per 100,000 people in 2005.

The study shows no change in the rate of community-acquired staph infections that were not drug resistant.

Why is community-acquired MRSA increasing? Hota and colleagues aren't sure.

However, they note that the hospital they studied serves a high-risk population, including people who live in public housing and people who have recently spent time in jail. Living in crowded settings is a risk factor for MRSA infection.

Preventing MRSA Infection

Here are five tips from the CDC on preventing MRSA skin infections:

  • Keep your hands clean. Wash them thoroughly with soap and water or use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer.
  • Keep cuts and scrapes clean and covered with a bandage until healed.
  • Avoid contact with other people's wounds or bandages.
  • Avoid sharing personal items such as towels and razors.
  • At health clubs, wipe surfaces of gym equipment before and after use.

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