Most of us shudder when we think of going into the hospital.
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After all, it usually means bad news — an unpleasant procedure, a serious disease, even major surgery.Now there's another reason. As a potential hotbed for MRSA, the so-called super bug that's resistant to frequently prescribed antibiotics.
MRSA is a mutated version of the common staph aureus bacteria that's carried on the skin or in the nose of nearly a third of the US population.Staph normally enters the body via a break in the skin, and can mimic a spider bite, boil or pimple.Most of the time such staph infections, including the dreaded MRSA, are successfully treated without antibiotics.
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But in some cases, especially among the sick, elderly or immune compromised, it's dangerous.
In hospitals, where staph can enter via surgical incisions, and sites where IV's and tubes enter the body, there's a greater chance of developing pneumonia or a blood stream or bone infection.If it's MRSA it can be difficult to treat, maybe even deadly.
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MRSA is also becoming more common in American neighborhoods. Like all staph, community based MRSA is spread by skin to skin contact or by touching contaminated objects.
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It's more likely to infect people in close contact or who often suffer cuts or abrasions, such as athletes in contact sports, prisoners and military recruits.Because it's also spread by sharing personal items, such as razors and towels, MRSA has also shown up inside schools and gymnasiums.
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So what's a nervous person to do? First, stop taking unnecessary antibiotics.Practice prevention. Wash your hands often and scrub vigorously for as long as it takes to recite the alphabet.Don't share personal items, and wipe down surfaces at the gym and locker room with a cleanser.Use common sense. If a bump or wound looks infected, visit your doctor.Cover wounds with bandages, and don't touch other people's wounds or bandages.
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And if you're in the hospital, be sure that the staff washes their hands before they touch you.Don't be afraid to speak up and ask about precautions. While the CDC has recently issued new guidelines for hospitals, not all are yet participating.For WebMD, I'm Sandee Lamotte.