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MRSA: Experts Answer Your Questions

How to Identify MRSA Infections and Reduce Your Risk
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Who is at risk for community-associated MRSA?

Outbreaks have been reported among athletes, prisoners, and military recruits; risk factors include sharing close quarters and personal hygiene products like razors or towels. Infections are increasingly being seen in the general community and have been reported in schools, gyms, and even day care centers.

While health-care-associated MRSA infections more typically occur among the elderly, the average age of a person with a community-associated infection is 23, according to one study.

How can I protect myself from MRSA?

Close skin-to-skin contact, cuts and abrasions in the skin, contact with contaminated objects, and living in crowded conditions have all been associated with the spread of MRSA, according to the CDC.

Some of the best ways to keep from getting or spreading the infection include:

  • Frequent and thorough hand washing. Experts recommend washing your hands for as long as it takes to slowly recite the alphabet.
  • Covering cuts and scrapes with a clean bandage.
  • Do not touch other people's wounds or bandages.
  • Do not share personal items like towels or razors, and wipe down surfaces you come into contact with at the gym or in a locker room.

I will be entering the hospital soon for a surgical procedure. What can I do to minimize the risk that I will be infected with MRSA or another hospital-acquired infection?

One of the most important steps a patient can take is to make sure doctors, nurses, support staff, and visitors wash their hands or use a hand sanitizer prior to touching them, Coffin says.

"Patients shouldn't be afraid to speak up and be active participants in their health care," she says.

Patients or patient advocates should also ask health care providers what is being done in the hospital to prevent MRSA and other types of hospital-acquired infections, she says.

Late last year, the CDC issued guidelines designed to reduce the spread of multidrug-resistant bugs in the nation's hospitals and other health care settings.

"The bottom line is we think a comprehensive approach is needed, and every [health care facility] should have a program in place," Coffin says. "The goal for everyone should be to get these infection rates down. If the interventions aren't doing this, they need to do more."

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