Now that MSRA, or methicillin-resistant staph, has taken the lead as America’s Worst Infection, killing more people annually than AIDS, it’s a good time to learn a little more about how to avoid it, how to identify it, and what to do if you suspect you have it. The New York Times offers a brief, helpful article about the topic, answering questions like “What can I do to lower my risk of catching it?” and “Where does it lurk?”
The basic advice is to wash, wash, wash. Practice good hygiene, wipe down surfaces and keep yourself clean when you’re at the gym, take care of all cuts and scrapes and keep them bandaged, and make sure your children don’t share their belongings with friends—especially since staph is hardy, and can be transferred down a long chain, e.g. from Mom who works at the nursing home, to her daughter, to your daughter, to the rest of your family. (Something similar to this actually happened to a doctor quoted in the article.) And above all, respect antibiotics; your bank account will thank you when you don’t have to spend months trying to recover from an infection.
Without question, people need to show far more respect for antibiotics. Misuse of antibiotics allows bacteria to evolve and develop resistance to drugs. But parents often pressure pediatricians to prescribe antibiotics even when they don’t help the vast majority of childhood infections. When you do take an antibiotic, finish the dose. Antibiotic resistance is bad for everyone, but your body can also become particularly vulnerable to resistant bacteria if you are careless with the drugs.