Staphylococcus bacteria (or staph) are commonly carried on the skin or in the nose of healthy individuals. Staph is spread by close contact either through direct physical contact with an infected individual or by touching objects (e.g., benches, towels, clothing, sports equipment) contaminated with the bacteria. MRSA is a type of bacterial infection caused by Staphylococcus aureus that is resistant to methicillin, an antibiotic commonly used to treat staph infection.
Initially found primarily in hospitals, nursing homes, and other health care settings, numerous MRSA cases have occurred in recent years in athletic settings. College and university cases have generally been among players of sports where skin-to-skin contact or sharing of equipment is common, such as football, wrestling, lacrosse, and fencing. Schools in the news with MRSA cases include large universities such as the University of North Carolina and the University of Georgia, and colleges such as Bowdoin and Amherst. We have had cases at Hampshire, though causality was not readily established.
MRSA is highly contagious and can cause bloodstream infections, pneumonia, and in extreme cases death; cases at schools include at least 2 deaths.
MRSA causes a skin infection that may resemble a pimple, boil, or other lesion. The skin may be red, warm, swollen, tender, or have drainage. The lesion drainage is very infectious. Skin infections that are left untreated can develop into more serious life-threatening infections of the lungs, blood, or bone. Symptoms of these infections include: difficulty breathing, malaise, fever, or chills. Some individuals may have staph colonies, including MRSA, on the skin and not have any symptoms. These individual act as carriers for the bacteria.
To prevent MRSA infection and act quickly to treat it if it occurs, the following precautions are necessary.
If you have any questions, please contact Nancy Apple in environmental health and safety (ext. 6620), or Karen Kalmakis at health services (ext. 5458).