The New England Journal of Medicine reports today that MRSA,Methecillin-resistant staph aureus, is now a serious problemin the general population, and recommends that all staphinfections be tested to determine if they are MRSA.

MRSA is a severe form of staph that is resistant to all butthe most aggressive antibiotic treatment and can be rapidlyfatal in some cases. It is especially dangerous if it entersthe lung, where it causes a pneumonia that can be fatal in amatter of days.

MRSA usually involves skin infections, and can lead topermanent destruction of tissue and require surgery to stopthe spread of the infection.

The disease has been reported in the general population,outside of hospitals or confined areas like prisons, inGeorgia, Florida, California, Texas and New York, andIllinois and is assumed to be present in other states and inCanada.

It often begins with a boil that grows rapidly and is notresponsive to normal treatment. In cases where lunginvolvement occurs, it is usually fatal.

Washing of hands with ordinary soap and water (notdisinfectant products) is the first line of defense againstMRSA. The second is to seek immediate medical treatement onthe appearance of any unusual boil or skin lesion thatevolves rapidly.

The disease may be communicated through the air, but themore common means of transmission is by touch.

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