Ms. Terrie is a clinical pharmacy writer based in Haymarket, Va
Reported outbreaks of methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) infections, especially in schools, highlight the need for greater public awareness of how these types of infections are transmitted, treated, and prevented.
Transmission of MRSA is typically via direct skinto- skin contact or contact with contaminated surfaces or items.1 Many of the community-acquired staph infections have occurred among athletes, who share equipment or personal items, and among children in daycare centers.2 Due to these outbreaks, some deaths have occurred and caused significant public concern. Not all staph infections are methicillin-resistant, however, and mortality rates associated with community-acquired MRSA (CA-MRSA) infections are low.3
Increasing public awareness of staph infections is critical in order to decrease the potential for additional cases, as well as reduce the anxiety of individuals not knowledgeable about these infections. MRSA can range from mild skin infections to more severe systemic infections, and health care professionals play an essential role in patient health and safety. These professionals can be instrumental in educating patients about staph infections by advocating proper infection control measures, such as frequent hand washing. Many individuals underestimate the value of hand washing in decreasing and preventing the transmission of infections.
Pharmacists can help decrease the incidence of antibiotic resistance by utilizing their expertise to make clinical recommendations on appropriate antibiotic use, as well as being advocates for practicing infection control procedures, such as good hygiene and frequent hand washing. MRSA, like other superbugs, is the product of decades of excessive and unwarranted antibiotic use.8 Leading causes of antibiotic resistance include inappropriate use and overuse of antibiotics, as well as bacterial mutation and possibly the practice of adding antibiotics to agricultural feed.9,10
As one of the most accessible health care professionals, pharmacists should seize every possible opportunity to counsel patients on the proper use of prescribed antibiotics, explain the warning signs of infection, and provide information on preventive measures for infection control. Patients showing any signs of skin infections should be advised to seek medical attention immediately.
The American Pharmaceutical Association has issued recommendations encouraging patients to confer with their health care providers about appropriate antibiotic use and infection control guidelines.11 One of the greatest tools in the fight against staph infections, particularly MRSA, is increasing public awareness of the importance of infection control and effective means of preventing transmission.
For more information on MRSA, please visit the following Web sites:
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: Community-associated MRSA Information for the Public: www.cdc.gov/ncidod/dhqp/ar_mrsa_ca_public.html
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: Questions and Answers about Methicillin-Resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) in Schools: www.cdc.gov/Features/MRSAinSchools/