Methicillin Resistant Staphylococcus Aureus, or MRSA, is a type of bacteria that is resistant to some forms of antibiotics, particularly the cillin class of medications. Staph aureus is common bacteria found on our skin and doesn’t usually present a problem.
For many years, it was thought to be exclusively a human condition. But MRSA has been reported in horses, dogs, cats, rabbits, sheep and cattle. There are two ways to contract MRSA- hospital acquired (HA-MRSA) and community acquired (CA-MRSA).
HA-MRSA is defined as an individual who has contracted the bacteria after being hospitalized or who have had a medical procedure preformed.
CA-MRSA is contracting the bacteria without being exposed to a medical facility. Risk areas for CA-MRSA include athletic facilities, child care facilities or schools and veterinary hospitals.
MRSA is primarily transmitted by direct contact but may also be spread by indirect contact with sports equipment, towels, bedding or contaminated bandages. In the veterinary community, it has been estimated that up to 10 of veterinary staff members are colonized with MRSA.
Clinical signs in animals are similar to humans. Usually it manifests as some sort of skin infection, such as an abscess or pus filled sore. People often think they’ve been bit by a spider. To diagnoses MRSA, in humans or animals, a swab of the infected area is sent to a laboratory for bacterial culturing and antibiotic sensitivity testing. Treatment involves a course of oral antibiotics. It’s important to place an absorbent bandage on the affected area if the wound is draining.
Preventing contamination is as easy as practicing excellent hygiene. Proper hand washing is an essential task for the veterinary assistant. You must use warm water and soap, thoroughly washing in between fingers, for a minimum of 30 seconds. An alcohol based hand sanitizer is also effective in lieu of a sink. Avoid touching mucus membranes, such as your nose or eyes, until you’ve properly washed your hands.
If you are changing bandages on an animal with infected wound(s), wear gloves and always wash your hands after properly disposing of the contaminated bandages. Your veterinary assistant can provide further information on household hygiene. Above all remember, basic hygiene is the best prevention.