A Word About MRSA and the Public's Concerns
The following information has been provided by Dr. Roger Case, Island County Health Officer.
Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) is a common staph skin infection that is resistant to some, but not all, antibiotics. The presence of MRSA in our communities is common. Life-threatening complications, however, are rare.
1) News reports have suggested that MRSA is a "superbug" that is resistant to antibiotics and will sweep through schools and communities. In fact, MRSA is a collection of different staph strains that are resistant to some antibiotics and quite sensitive to others. It is by no means untreatable.
2) This is not an issue about facilities (such as schools) and the perceived need to take extraordinary disinfection measures. Close contact with other people (in schools, hospitals, jails, etc.) is indeed a risk factor. There is no evidence, however, that disinfection of facilities is necessary or effective outside of certain hospital settings. Prevention of MRSA is best done through hand washing, personal hygiene, wound care, and early recognition and treatment. Environmental disinfection has a role, but it is relatively minor.
3) This has become a national media story. Headlines like "MRSA more deadly than AIDS" is probably factually true (in the US, at least), but under-plays a more significant point -- "More people die from common things than uncommon things", a headline to which no one would pay much attention.
How can we prevent MRSA in our schools and elsewhere? Hygiene, hygiene, hygiene. Wipe runny noses, cover cuts, sores, or any open wound with band-aids, and always wash hands. It doesn't take anything fancy, soap and water works fine.
To learn more about MRSA, go to the state Department of Health website at
or the Center for Disease Control website at
Roger S Case, MD
Health Officer, Island County