While the antibiotic-resistant skin infection or "super bug" known as methicillin-resistant staphylococcus aureus ("MRSA") poses cause for concern, health officials say there is no need for parents and athletes to panic.
CA-MRSA: less dangerous, non-invasive
For one thing, the vast majority of cases of MRSA acquired outside of a hospital setting - dubbed "community-acquired" or CA-MRSA - are the less dangerous non-invasive form (usually appearing as skin infections).
Although the infection can, in some cases, be virulent enough to lead to bloodstream infections, or bone infections requiring intravenous drug treatment in a hospital, community-acquired MRSA:
- Is usually mild;
Is more easily and effectively treated (by draining the pus, with or without antibiotics);
- Usually responds well to certain antibiotics (clindamycin, trimethoprim-sulfamethoxazole (TMP-SMX, Septra, Bactrim), and tetracycline) , albeit ones that can cost as much as $80 per day; and
For another the risk of infection can be lowered dramatically by practicing good personal hygiene (hand washing etc.).
Finally, it is important to remember, say health officials, that, while MRSA is getting a lot of attention, ordinary flu poses more of a health threat, killing an estimated 36,000 people a year in the USA.
Source: Centers for Disease Control; Weber, Kathleen. "Community-Associated Methicillin-Resistant Staphylococcus aureus Infections in the Athlete." Sports Health: A Multidisciplinary Approach 1 (2009): 405-410.
Updated November 6, 2009