MRSA: The Worst Halloween Treat Ever
So I was just sitting here in my bathrobe, enjoying my fifth candy bar, when someone knocked on the door, and who could it be but an antibiotic-resistant superbug! AAAIIIIEEEE!
MRSA is terrifying everyone, and if you haven’t heard of it, I’m jealous. Stop reading right now and get back to your cave. Anyway, MRSA stands for methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus, and it made headlines just a couple of weeks ago, after the Journal of the American Medical Association reported that the insidious bacteria kills more people in the U.S. each year than AIDS. Tragically, just a few days after this report, a 12-year-old boy died after being misdiagnosed (twice) and sent home. (Warning: one look at his sweet face may break your heart.) In the same week, a 17-year-old Virginian boy died. Stories of MRSA in schools have been clogging the airwaves and Internet tubes ever since. And panic has gripped the hearts of parents everywhere.
So: are these the End Times? Not so fast. Take that doom-prophesying sandwich board off and sit down. According to the people who know about these things, MRSA is cropping up in the news because of increased attention to the problem, not a sudden increase in cases. In fact, MRSA has been a problem for the last decade—it just didn’t make news.
Which is not to say that we shouldn’t be alarmed. MRSA is nasty, and it’s a huge problem. But the reality is that with prompt treatment, most patients recover quickly. And the vast majority of MRSA infections are related to time spent in a hospital or nursing home. Only ten percent of MRSA infections occur within a community.
So if we’re not going to freak out and keep our children inside for the next twenty years, what do we do? First of all, let’s all take a deep breath. There you go. Then let’s consider the wise counsel of professionals such as Nurse William, who tells us, first of all, to remember that the media loves to stir up panic, and second, wash your damn hands. (I will add: don’t misuse antibiotics, kids. Take the entire course that you’re prescribed, and don’t take them without a prescription.)
Also, make sure you know what MRSA looks like. The infection usually begins on the skin, and looks like a pimple, boil, or spider bite. This will quickly begin to resemble a sore, and may fill with pus. From what I’ve read of people’s experiences, I’m also betting it’s going to be painful. Do not try to attempt any amateur lancing, because this can cause it to spread, and also that’s gross. Get to a doctor, and ask to be tested specifically for MRSA.
Given that MRSA can rapidly become dangerous, increased vigilance for signs and symptoms can only have positive repurcussions. The earlier the infection is detected and treated, after all, the greater the chances of complete recovery. So try to ignore the mounting public hysteria, and remember: more handwashing, less hyperventilating. It’s going to be okay.