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Information about Methicillin-resistant Staph Aureus (MRSA) at Arizona State University

November 16, 2007

Over the past couple of weeks, there has been much publicity surrounding methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) infections.  According to Dr. Allan L. Markus, Director of Campus Health Services, there are some very good sources of reliable information both on the ASU Health website and the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) website but also a great deal of misinformation and concern over an infection that has been around for over 40 years.  There have been just two or three confirmed cases of MRSA skin infections in a total campus population of nearly 65,000, and there is no eminent public health threat to our campus.  General testing of the population is not recommended.

In an effort to gain a fuller understanding of MRSA, and to help initiate appropriate precautions, ASU has prepared this information for the campus community to better communicate the risks, prevention methods and steps the University is taking to address the issue of MRSA on campus.

MRSA Information
There are two general classes of these bacteria:
* Health-care associated MRSA (this is the type contracted in hospital, nursing and group home settings) and much more resistance to antibiotics and tends to cause more invasive disease.
* Community-associated MRSA (this is the type contracted without contact with any healthcare facilities and more likely found on our campus). 
MRSA is around because of over-prescribing antibiotics for sore throats, sinus infections, and colds caused by viruses leading to resistance to the normal Staph that lives on all of our skins.
MRSA is transferred from person to person through direct contact with infected wounds, hands and personal items from infected people.  It is much less likely to transfer this infection from sinks, toilets etc.  Some people carry the infection in the nasal passages, but won’t generate any disease. 
Some people are more susceptible than others in developing frequent skin infections, such as athletes with direct skin to skin contact (wrestlers for example), and those who get turf burns or do cosmetic shaving, may also be at higher risk because of the damage to the superficial skin.

Preventing the spread of MRSA at ASU

The most effective policies and procedures to prevent the spread of any contagious disease, including MRSA is to focus on personal health, good hygiene and proper use of antibiotics.  It is therefore recommended that every person on campus should:
* Cover skin abrasions or cuts with a clean, dry bandage until healed.
* Wash your hands frequently with soap and warm water for 20 seconds (Row, Row, Row Your Boat 3 times) OR use alcohol-based hand sanitizers.
* Do not share personal items such as towels, razors, etc.
* All students, faculty and staff need to avoid antibiotics for sore throats, sinus infections and coughing that are caused by colds/viruses. Overuse of antibiotics builds up the personal resistance to antibiotics by the bacteria on your body.
* Shower before and after sports competitions/events that involve potential skin to skin contact. 
* Seek the assistance and expertise of Campus Health Services if you have any skin lesions to determine if treatment is needed.

Faculty/student/class information

Students who have skin infections that are closed or well covered pose no health risk to other students in class and should be able to attend classes.
* Students with open and draining wounds with blood or pus should be directed to go to any of the four health service locations to receive treatment.
* Rooms do not need disinfecting treatment unless there was an open and draining wound with blood or pus.  If this occurs, please call Environmental Health and Safety at the Campus to arrange for cleanup.
Residence hall information
* There is very little risk from closed and well-covered skin infections, roommates should just follow good basic hygiene techniques as above.
* If a student has an infected open wound the residence hall staff will, when possible, move the student to a single room till the wound heals or can be adequately covered.  If not possible, the students will observe strict infection control procedures with frequent washing, no sharing toiletry, razors, clothing, and towels