Health center warns of staph infections on campus

That mysterious bug bite or pimple could be more than a simple, annoying skin flaw.

It could be community-acquired Methicillin-Resistant Staphylococcus Aureus (MRSA). According to the Centers for Disease Control, MRSA is a bacterial skin infection resistant to a class of antibiotics known as methicillin.

It is spread through close contact of people with open wounds, the sharing of personal and athletic equipment, and the touching of contaminated surfaces.

MRSA is more common in those with weakened immune systems, such as infants, the elderly and those with skin conditions, but has been spread through the use of unnecessary antibiotics to combat viral infections like the common cold.

“[Overuse of antibiotics] generates resistance to the bacteria in our world, and that’s how these things develop,” Dr. Glenn Egelman, director and physician in chief of Student Health Services said. “The extent of the problem is becoming more widespread but that’s not a surprise.”

Symptoms of MRSA include skin abrasions that appear to be painful, like bug bites or boils, sometimes with pus or drainage, according to infectious disease nurse Amy Jones of the Wood County Health Department.

“Staph is normally sensitive to certain classes of antibiotics,” Egelman said. “MRSA means that class of antibiotics doesn’t work to treat the skin infection.”

The resistance to different types of treatment has made MRSA a “superbug,” according to the CDC.

The infection will spread over the course of a few days if not treated soon enough and properly, eventually causing more serious conditions and even death, Egelman said.

Student Health Services offers culture testing for MRSA. A sample will be taken from the patient’s affected area and the bacteria will be grown and tested to see which antibiotics kill them. This test takes 48 hours.

Student Health Services has been treating MRSA for three years, Egelman said.

Students can prevent the spread of MRSA by washing their hands or using an alcohol-based sanitizer. WebMD advises not to use antibiotics unless a doctor sees it as the best way to treat an illness.

If the student is infected, he or she should keep the infected area covered with a clean bandage and regularly disinfect frequently touched items such as doorknobs and countertops. They should also avoid sharing items that have been in contact with the wound, such as razors, towels and clothing.

According to the CDC, about 94,000 patients a year suffer from drug-resistant staph infections. Each year, 18,700 people die from these infections. This surpasses the 17,000 who die from AIDS a year. About 2.3 million people have or carry MRSA.

“[Students] need to come to the right place to get the right treatment and they’ll be better in a matter of a couple days,” Egelman said. “They shouldn’t fear [MRSA], they should have a healthy respect for it.”

For more information about MSRA, students can visit