Oahu Health Guide - Summer Heat, Camping, poor sanitation can increase Staph Infections in Hawaii
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Oahu Health Talk Summer heat, camping, poor sanitation and cuts and sores can increase Staph Infections in Hawaii

Summer heat, camping, poor sanitation and cuts and sores can increase Staph Infections in Hawaii

Staph infections are those caused by the bacteria Staphylococcus aureus. This bacteria is commonly found in the environment, sand, water, pubic facilities, health care settings.

Many healthy people carry staph bacteria in their noses without getting sick. But when the skin is punctured or broken, staph bacteria can enter the wound and cause infections, which can lead to other health problems.

In the sultry summer heat in Hawaii, bacteria thrives. It is important to clean and cover open wounds and sores. Pay attention and protect feet from injury, wear slippers in the public showers, wash with soap after swimming, and keep your hands clean. People with neruopathy or diabetes, or older people with thinning skin need to take special care of their shins, legs and feet and practice good hygeine to help keep infections at bay.

-MRSA, methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus, a once-rare drug-resistant germ now appears to cause more than half of all skin infections treated in U.S. emergency rooms, say researchers who documented the superbug's startling spread in the general population by studying it in 11 cities.

You can help prevent you or your child from developing a staph infection by encouraging regular hand washing, keeping your skin clean with a daily bath, and keeping areas that have been cut clean or covered.

How does staph become anti-biotic resistant?
Every time a patient takes penicillin or another antibiotic for a bacterial infection, the drug may kill most of the bacteria. But a few tenacious germs may survive by mutating or acquiring resistance genes from other bacteria. These surviving genes can multiply quickly, creating drug-resistant strains. The presence of these strains may mean that the patient's next infection will not respond to the first-choice antibiotic therapy. Also, the resistant bacteria may be transmitted to others in the patient's community.

Experts say the risk is greatest for those in hospitals, nursing homes, and other settings where people tend to be sick often. People who may be taking an array of antibiotics (one researcher estimates that 25 to 40 percent of hospital patients get intravenous antibiotics), may be increasing the chance of a resistant germ originating within their own bodies. Also, hospitalized patients are surrounded by others whose infectious diseases may spread, and their immune systems may be weakened and incapable of beating the infectious bugs.

Anti-biotic resistant staph is prevalant among homeless populations, prison settings, hospitals, day care centers, and other high density areas where hygeine may be compromised.

Many victims mistakenly thought they just had spider bites that wouldn't heal, not drug-resistant staph bacteria. Only a decade ago, these germs were hardly ever seen outside of hospitals and nursing homes. It is important to monitor bites and stings and become educated on the risks of staph infections.

The germ typically thrives in health-care settings where people have open wounds and tubes. But more recently outbreaks have occurred among prisoners, children and athletes, with the germ spreading through skin contact or shared items such as towels. Dozens of people in Ohio, Kentucky and Vermont recently got MRSA skin infections from tattoos. One man in Hawaii recently died from complications from Staph infection or flesh eating virus, and other people have lost toes or limbs when infections spread rapidly.

How Staph Infections Spread? Staph can spread through the air, on contaminated surfaces, and from person to person. A child can carry staph bacteria from one area of the body to another on dirty hands and under dirty fingernails. Staph can pass from person to person the same way. So hand washing with soap is the most important way to prevent staph infections.

Staph infection can be avoided with proper sanitation and health habits. Staph can be easily treated with care on the superficial level, keeping wounds covered and using an antibacterial ointment. However, Staph infections but must be taken more seriously if the infection enters the blood stream. Staph infections and can cause heart damage, limb loss and even death.

Staph Prevention Tips:
Keep areas of the skin that have been injured - such as cuts, scrapes, and rashes caused by allergic reactions or poison ivy - clean and covered, and dry.

Treating Staph Infections
Most localized staph skin infections can be treated by washing the skin with an antibacterial cleanser, applying an antibiotic ointment prescribed by a doctor, and covering the skin with a clean dressing. To keep the infection from spreading, use a towel only once when you clean an area of infected skin, then wash it (or use disposable towels). Local remedies include poltices of noni fruit, comfrey, and antibiotic ointment.

For most serious staph skin infections, your doctor may prescribe an antibiotic If so, give the antibiotic on schedule for as many days as your doctor directs. For MSRA Staff, sulfer based drugs may be substituted.

Drug resistance expert Stuart Levy, M.D., has estimated that, of the 50 million pounds of antibiotics produced in the United States, over 40 percent are used not to treat human disease but for farm animals and agricultural crops.

Writing in the May 7, 1998, New England Journal of Medicine, Levy states that some 20 percent of this amount is used in therapeutic doses to treat sick animals. The rest is used in lower doses to promote food animals' growth, prevent disease in an entire herd or flock, or protect crops from disease.

Large scale food production of beef, cattle, pigs and poultry depend on antibiotics to keep animals healthy while living in overcrowded or unsantitary conditions or en route to the slaughter house. The USDA states that the protective role of antibiotics in the food chain, may translate into a safer and more abundant U.S. food supply. The FDA's Center for Veterinary Medicine, the World Health Organization, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and the animal industry are seeking ways to prevent the overuse and misuse of antibiotics in animals.

Scientists have determined that certain bacteria that develop resistance in animals can then infect people who eat meat or other animal products. It is difficult to measure precisely the impact on human health of the use of antibiotics in farm animals, but experts believe that, already, resistant strains of Salmonella, Campylobacter, Enterococcus, and E. coli have been transmitted from animals to people.

Providing accurate inforamation and increasing local awareness of risks, maintaining control and compliance of sanitary conditions, educating doctors and patients about the perils of overusing or abusing antibiotics, practicing good hygeine and dietary and lifestyle choices to build and maintain a strong immune system are the best tools of defense against the anti-biotic resistant superbugs


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