MRSA is Preventable and Treatable, Health Department Says

For Immediate Release: November 2, 2007
Media Contact: Communication Office
802-863-7281

BURLINGTON – The Health Department is advising Vermonters to take simple precautions to prevent the spread of infections such as MRSA (methicillin resistant Staphylococcus aureus).

MRSA is a particular strain of staph infection that has, over time, become resistant to treatment by certain antibiotics – but it is both preventable and treatable.

“Staph is an age-old and very common bacteria that lives on the skin or in the nose of healthy people,” said Health Commissioner Sharon Moffatt, RN, MSN. “The strain of staph known as MRSA has made news recently, but MRSA is not new, it rarely causes serious illness when acquired in the community, and it is both preventable and treatable.”

MRSA is spread by skin-to-skin contact through breaks in the skin or, less commonly, by touching surfaces that have the bacteria on them. MRSA infections can be very mild or very serious, and MRSA acquired in the hospital or health care setting is a different strain and more serious than MRSA acquired in the community – at home, at school or day care, etc.

Taking simple precautions can prevent the spread of MRSA or other bacterial infections:
· Wash hands with soap and water often, or use an alcohol-based sanitizer.
· Shower after exercise.
· Cover cuts, scrapes and wounds with bandages until healed.
· Don’t share personal items such as used razors, towels or other objects that could pass bacteria from one person’s skin to another.
· Put barriers between skin and shared equipment like weight-lifting benches.
· Sanitize frequently touched surfaces.

“If you think you have an infected wound, see your medical care provider right away” said Moffatt. “MRSA can be diagnosed only through a laboratory test. And although MRSA is resistant to certain antibiotics, it is treatable.”

MRSA, like any infection, can be especially life-threatening for older people and people with weakened immune systems. Patients in hospitals, nursing homes, and health care facilities such as dialysis centers are most at risk for serious illness when open wounds, burns or tubes inserted in their bodies provide a pathway for infection. Rigorous infection control guidelines are designed for these clinical facilities.

MRSA is not an illness that, by law, must be reported by health care providers or laboratories to the Vermont Department of Health. However, Health Department epidemiologists investigate clusters of cases of illness to determine the cause and to control the spread of illness, or if there is a situation that represents a threat to the public’s health.

Last week, the Health Department worked with the Secretary of State’s Office to investigate three cases of MRSA infection; all cases had recent tattoos performed by an unlicensed tattooist working out of the home.

Tattooists licensed by the Secretary of State's Office of Professional Regulation are trained to take precautions to prevent such infections, and are subject to strict sanitation and sterilization standards for their shops and equipment. It is against the law to perform tattooing or piercing anywhere other than in a licensed establishment. The Office of the Secretary of State strongly encourages the public to access only those tattoo/body piercing establishments that are licensed and are subject to inspection standards.

You can inquire about the licensure status of a tattooist or any other number of professions and occupations by calling 802-828-1505 or by visiting the Office of Professional Regulation website at www.vtprofessionals.org.

For more information and links to resources for schools, day care centers and health care settings, go to the Vermont Department of Health’s website at www.healthvermont.gov.

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