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DHSS Press Release

Rita Landgraf, Secretary
Carl Kanefsky, Communications Director
(302) 540-4979, Pager

Date: April 15, 2010


What is Staphylococcus aureus (staph)?

Staphylococcus aureus, often referred to as "staph," are bacteria commonly carried on the skin or in the nose of healthy people. Approximately 25% to 30% of the population is colonized (when bacteria are present, but not causing an infection) in the nose with staph bacteria. Staph bacteria are one of the most common causes of skin infections in the United States. Most of these skin infections are minor (such as pimples and boils) and can be treated without antibiotics. However, staph bacteria can cause serious infections (such as surgical wound infections, bloodstream infections and pneumonia). In the past, most serious staph infections were treated with an antibiotic related to penicillin. With widespread use of this antibiotic, treating these infections is more difficult because the staph bacteria became resistant to various antibiotics, including penicillin.

What is Vancomycin Resistant Staphylococcus aureus (VRSA)?

VRSA is a type of antibiotic-resistant staph. While most staph bacteria can be treated with the antibiotic vancomycin, some patients develop a resistance and can no longer be treated with that drug. Healthcare providers can use other antibiotics to treat VRSA.

Who gets VRSA infections?

Staph infections, including VRSA, occur most frequently among persons in hospitals and healthcare facilities who have underlying health conditions, previous infections with other drug-resistant organisms, invasive procedures and devices, recent hospitalizations and recent exposure to vancomycin and other antibiotics.

Are VRSA infections treatable?

Yes, VRSA infections are treatable. To date, all known VRSA cases were treated with other antibiotics.

How can the spread of VRSA be prevented?

The spread of VRSA in hospitals and healthcare facilities can be prevented by using proper infection control practices such has frequent hand washing and properly using gloves before and after contact with body fluids. Additionally, proper antibiotic usage is very important to prevent resistance to antibiotics.

What should I do if a family member or close contact has VRSA?

Outside healthcare settings, persons having close physical contact with someone infected with VRSA should wash their hands frequently with soap and water. They should avoid contact with infected wounds, wound drainage and contaminated materials such as bandages. If visiting someone hospitalized with a VRSA infection, follow hospital infection control guidelines.

For more information: U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention:

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