5 MRSA Hot Spots

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Where in your community can you find the drug-resistant MRSA (methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus), it’s easy to forget there really are two MRSA epidemics going on at the same time.

By far the largest epidemic is going on inside hospitals and other health care facilities. The day care centers have not been hot spots for MSRA outbreaks.

“It is kind of surprising to us that we have not received many reports of MRSA in day care,” he says. “We hear lots of reports of MRSA in children, but not associated with day care. One reason is that day care centers already have policies in place to handle a wide variety of diseases. Those same policies would prevent MRSA infections.”

Hageman says outbreaks happen when a person with an MRSA infection comes into direct skin-to-skin contact with another person — or after a person uses a towel or other object that’s been contaminated by an infected person.

But you can’t avoid MRSA by avoiding so-called hot spots.

Staph is found anywhere. One in three people carry staph on their skin. They can spread infections anywhere in the community,” Hageman says.

The Main Hot Spot for MRSA

Why do so many people carry staph germs? Because the human body is the staph bacterium’s natural habitat, says Gordon Dickinson, MD, chief of infectious diseases at the University of Miami and the Miami VA Medical Center.

“We are the ecology,” Dickinson tells WebMD. “Humans are the ecological niche for Staphylococcus aureus. MRSA is just a variant.”

This means the No. 1 hot spot for MRSA is: your nose.

“It can live in moist areas of the skin — like under the arms, in the groin — but you find it mainly inside the front of the nose,” Dickinson says.

Whose nose? There’s a very good chance it’s your own.

“Our current understanding is that 20% of healthy people never seem to carry staph, while up to 60% carry it sometimes,” Dickinson says. “And 20% of healthy people carry staph day in and day out, usually in their noses.”

Most of these people carry the normal kind of staph. But an increasing number carry MRSA. Why doesn’t it hurt them?

“We don’t understand why staph causes mischief. Most of the time it does not,” Dickinson says. “But presumably, little breaks in the skin allow it to get past our barriers. Then it can multiply — and staph comes with a bundle of proteins and toxins and enzymes that allow it to do a lot of damage.”

So how can you stop staph from getting from the front of your nose to your skin?

“Theoretically, one thing people can do is quit picking their noses. But that won’t help — studies show people can’t keep their hands away from their noses,” Dickinson says.

Fortunately, there are a number of ways to prevent infection with both normal staph and MRSA.

Stopping Staph

MRSA may be the latest scary germ to grab headlines, but good old-fashioned hygiene is the key to protection.

Here’s how to keep MRSA at bay: