Superbug MRSA, or methicillin-resistant staphylococcus aureus, is not easy to get rid of. Once it makes its way into your home, it can spread and linger for a long time. Recent research also tells us that children are likely the ones bringing the germs inside.
In the homes of people with infections, according to a study in The Lancet Infectious Diseases, MRSA was found on multiple surfaces – places like appliance handles, towels, light switches, video game controllers and pets.
Study coauthor Dr. Stephanie Fritz, an associate professor in the division of pediatric infectious diseases at Washington University in St. Louis, said, “It’s a hardy bacterium that lives on surfaces. People can pick it up and bring it home and the house can become colonized.“
Up until a couple of decades ago, MRSA was mainly found in hospitals. But now it is unfortunately pretty common to find the bacteria in our daily surroundings.
MRSA can enter the body through any break in the skin to cause an infection. Symptoms include swelling with redness, pain and pus. Sometimes, a fever will accompany the infection.
Dr. Graham Snyder, medical director of infection prevention at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center, who wasn’t involved with the new research, estimates that around 11,000 people die each year from MRSA. An untreated skin infection can become pneumonia and even sepsis.
For the study, Fritz and her team looked at homes of 150 St. Lous children with the average age of three who had previously been treated for a MRSA infection.
They made five visits over the course of a year and took swabbed samples from the family members who lived there and their pets. They also asked about personal care habits.
MRSA appeared on half of the people studied and on one-third of the pets on at least one visit. And it appeared that the people were the ones passing the bug to the pets. Researchers even discovered items with MRSA that hadn’t been touched within 6 months – that’s a really long time for germs to live on something in your house.
Snyder says the best defense to contracting MRSA infections is to wash your hands regularly. “For example, if you’ve been out and about in public doing errands and you’ve been touching elevator buttons and grocery carts, you should wash your hands when you come into the house.”
That’s pretty easy and, frankly, a smart habit to develop if you haven’t already.
Another good habit? Keeping your house clean and uncluttered. A tidy personal environment helps keep MRSA out, and that is definitely good for you – Marie Kondo or no.