MRSA infections: Tougher tha Kevlar

     Methicillin-resistant staphylococcus aureus bacteria, commonly known as MRSA, is an epidemic plaguing all law enforcement agencies and correctional facilities in the United States. The bacteria causes a drug resistant infection that is as...


     The CDC has investigated clusters of CA-MRSA skin infections among athletes, military recruits, children, Pacific Islanders, Alaskan natives, Native Americans, homosexuals, and prisoners. The organization found that factors associated with the spread of MRSA skin infections include: close skin-to-skin contact; openings in the skin, such as cuts or abrasions; contaminated items and surfaces; crowded living conditions; and poor hygiene.

     It is possible to have a staph or MRSA skin infection recur after treatment. According to the CDC, to prevent this from happening, it's important to follow a health care provider's directions during treatment, and adhere to the prevention steps listed in "How to prevent staph or MRSA skin infections" on Page 20 and "How to prevent the spread of MRSA" on Page 23, after the infection is gone.

Preventing MRSA
     The best start in any prevention effort is through officer education. Many law enforcement agencies recently initiated infection control and reporting systems. Law enforcers are also beginning to focus critical attention on the dangers of surface-borne contaminants, such as MRSA and Hepatitis C, and airborne contaminants, such as Tuberculosis (TB). Visiting Web sites, such as www.cdc.gov, and reading articles is another great way to keep informed of the dangers of infectious diseases.

     Proper personal hygiene protocols also should be established, including effective hand washing, showering before leaving work, and having uniforms cleaned at work instead of at home. And all officers should be educated in these protocols and mandated to follow them.

     But that is not enough.

     More attention must be placed on proper room and vehicle sterilization and disinfecting techniques. Methods that include the use of harsh chemicals, such as bleaches and traditional "spray and wipe" disinfectants, are largely ineffective and must be re-evaluated. Revolutionary sterilizing and disinfecting technologies, such as "Dri-Mist" micro-particle applications, are now available and are effective at eliminating harmful environmental contaminants, such as MRSA, VRE (vancomycin-resistant enterococci), Hepatitis and Avian Flu. Law enforcement must implement these more effective disinfectant applications immediately to protect both officers and the public.

     Following Seggi's treatment, he learned how fortunate he was that he hadn't contaminated his family and friends with MRSA. "The last thing I want to do is bring home the dangers of my job to my family," he comments. "I signed up for the risks of being a police officer, but my family and friends didn't, and they shouldn't be subjected to the same dangers I face every day."

     Law enforcement officers, corrections officers, firefighters and EMT/paramedics are on the front lines of infectious, and sometimes deadly bacteria and viruses every time they go to work. The fight against contagious diseases must begin NOW! The potential for cross-contamination into officers' personal lives is too great. It isn't enough to simply safeguard the lives of your officers. When it comes to deadly and infectious diseases such as MRSA, everyone is at risk.

How to prevent staph or MRSA skin infections
     Practice good hygiene:

  1. Keep your hands clean by washing thoroughly with soap and water or using an alcohol-based hand sanitizer.
  2. Keep cuts and scrapes clean and covered with a bandage until healed.
  3. Avoid contact with other people's wounds or bandages.
  4. Avoid sharing personal items such as towels or razors.

Prevent the spread of MRSA
     The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention notes that MRSA infected individuals can prevent spreading MRSA to others by following these steps:

  • Cover the wound. Keep wounds that are draining or have pus covered with clean, dry bandages. Follow a health care provider's instructions on proper wound care. Pus from infected wounds can contain staph and MRSA, so keeping the infection covered will help prevent the spread to others. Bandages or tape can be discarded with the regular trash.
  • Regular hand washing. Infected individuals, their family, and others in close contact with them should wash their hands frequently with soap and warm water or use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer, especially after changing the bandage or touching the infected wound.
  • Avoid sharing personal items, such as towels, washcloths, razors, clothing or uniforms that may have had contact with the infected wound or bandage. Wash sheets, towels and clothes that become soiled with water and laundry detergent. Drying clothes in a hot dryer, rather than air-drying, also helps kill bacteria in clothes.
  • Share infection history with doctors. Infected individuals should tell any health care providers who treat them that they have or have had a staph or MRSA skin infection.
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