‘Superbug’ kills Federal Way resident

To minimize risk of infection, wash your hands regularly

  • Tuesday, November 6, 2007 11:10am
  • News

By MARGO HORNER, The Mirror

A Federal Way man died last week of a dangerous skin infection sometimes referred to as “the superbug.”

John F. Jones, 46, died of methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus, also known as MRSA, on Wednesday at Harborview Medical Center.

MRSA is a highly contagious, antibiotic-resistant strain of staph infection, according to the Washington State Department of Health.

Symptoms at first look and feel like a spider bite, a boil, blisters filled with fluid or a cut that is swollen, hot and filled with pus. Untreated, MRSA can be fatal.

Infections are spread through skin-to-skin contact, sharing personal items or touching objects such as public phones or doorknobs. MRSA is most commonly contracted in hospitals, nursing homes, daycares or college dorms.

Health officials recommend frequent hand washing to prevent skin infections such as MRSA.

The first case of MRSA was discovered in the 1960s, but it is becoming more common today, said Tim Church, communications director for the Washington State Department of Health.

“We’re seeing MRSA now more, not only in hospitals but in community settings as well,” Church said.

Still, people shouldn’t panic, he said.

“There are some fairly simple things people can do to limit their exposure to it,” he said.

Frequent hand washing is the best way to prevent MRSA and other illnesses such as colds and the flu. Hand sanitizer is also effective, Church said.

“You would certainly want to avoid direct skin-to-skin contact with somebody who is known to have MRSA,” he said.

Contact sports, such as football and wrestling, are possible ways to spread MRSA. Someone with a known infection should not participate in those sports.

“The majority of people that you run into during the day, you’re not going to have that kind of contact with,” Church said.

A person with MRSA who wears a bandage over a wound is a relatively limited risk, he said.

It is possible for a person to have MRSA and not even know about it. Any wound that is not healing properly or appears infected should be examined by a health care professional, Church said.

“Often people do not react quickly enough when they have an ailment,” he said.

In addition to hand washing and awareness, Church recommends people wash down gym equipment before and after use, and also avoid touching their face.

“That’s why they have those little spray bottles in most gyms,” he said. “You have a lot of control as to how exposed you are to germs.”

Contact Margo Horner: mhorner@fedwaymirror.com or (253) 925-5565.

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What to do:

The best way to prevent skin infections is simple — wash your hands. Washing your hands often with soap and warm water also helps prevent colds and flu. Antibacterial soaps are not needed.

Wash cuts, scrapes and sores with soap and water, then keep them clean and dry. Cover them with bandages until they are healed.

Avoid contact with other people’s cuts or sores and any materials that have come in contact with them.

Avoid sharing personal items such as soap, towels and razors.

Clean and wash sports clothing and equipment after each use.

Call your doctor if:

You have signs of infection, such as pain, redness, swelling and heat, and oozing pus or blood.

New symptoms develop during or after you get treated.

For more information, visit www.doh.wa.gov/Topics/Antibiotics/MRSA.htm.

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