Staph infections are infections caused by the Staphylococcus aureus bacteria. The bacterium is very common and is found on people’s skin and noses, with estimates suggesting that 30% of people carry the bacteria in their noses (CDC, 2011). Normally, the bacterium is harmless. However, there are incidences where the bacteria can enter the body thereby resulting in infection. The infections range from minor skin infections such as pimples and boils, to serious infections such as blood infections (Chang, 2006). Other infections are potentially fatal such as toxic shock syndrome (Chang, 2006). Fatal infections occur when the bacteria invader deeper organs such as joints, bones, lungs or even the heart (Mayo Clinic Staff, 2014). The CDC elaborates that the specific infections are bacterimia or sepsis (bloodstream), pneumonia (lungs), endocarditis (heart) and osteomyelitis (bones) (CDC, 2011). Clearly then, staph is a serious health risk.
As noted, many individuals (about 30%), carry around the bacterium in their noses or on their skin, yet they never develop infections. According to Chang (2006), this is probably due to their equilibrium between the numbers of bacteria present on their skin, and their body’s ability to fight the bacteria. Other factors may include the presence of many other bacteria that inhibit the ability of the staphylococcus to take over as well as strong immune systems of the individuals. Nonetheless, there are those who develop the infection. Some of the groups that are predisposed towards developing the infection include diabetics and others with chronic conditions such cancer, lung disease and vascular disease (CDC, 2011). This can probably be attributed to weaker immune systems in these individuals thereby reducing their bodies’ capabilities to fight the infections.
One of the paradoxes concerning staph infections is that a more fatal strain of the staph bacterium, methicillin resistant staphylococcus aureum (MRSA) emerged from hospitals. This strain is not only resistant to methicillin, but also to other antibiotics such as penicillin, amoxicillin and nafcillin (Chang, 2006). This strain was responsible for 18650 deaths out of 94630 who contracted the infection in 2005 (Lambert, 2009). Patients in hospitals are at a greater risk of contracting and experiencing the fatal MRSA due to invasive medical procedures as well as their reduced immune system (Lambert, 2009; CDC, 2011). Other invasive devices such as catheters, feeding tubes and dialysis also increase the risk of individuals contracting infections (Mayo Clinic Staff, 2014). Without the hospital setting, individuals whose professions involve elevated physical contact such as wrestling, as well as other sports where individuals may share towels or equipment can easily contract infections (Mayo Clinic Staff, 2014). This is especially where one of the individuals carries the bacteria.
Staph Infections Preventive Measures
Owing to the fatal nature of the infection, it is necessary to develop preventive measures. This is especially within the hospital setting where invasive procedures and the reduced immune system of patients expose them to greater risk. The contact nature of the spread of staff means that some of the methods in use involve reducing the risk of transmission by promoting healthy contact. To achieve this, individuals are constantly encouraged to wash their hands. This is done using soap and water or alcohol based sanitizers (Chang, 2006). Hand washing has to be done meticulously by vigorous scrubbing fort about 15s and then proper rinsing. Other endeavors towards controlling the spread of the infection include mandatory testing of high risk patients such as those who come to hospitals from nursing homes (Tenover & Pearson., 2004). Other risk management approaches include raising MRSA awareness within hospitals (Lambert, 2009).