Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) is a bacterium that can lead to severe infections, and EMS and firefighters having an increased threat of exposure based on their work, says conference presenter Dr. Thomas Walsh with Weill Cornell Medical College. Since this "superbug" thrives on inanimate surfaces (towels, bedding, razors, soap, turnout and medical gear, etc.), these workers--particularly firefiighters living in close quarters with others in a fire station--should become familar with this "major public health threat," Walsh adds.
Attendees saw an array of images underscoring MRSA infections, which start small and in some cases resemble a spider bite. Deeply invasive infections, notes Walsh, can lead to pneumonia, abscesses in the lungs, and toxic shock syndrome.
Walsh outlined ways to mitigate the risk, which include:
- Cover a draining wound with clean bandages
- Wash hands, espeically after contact wtih an infected wound
- Launder clothing with contact of a contaminated area. Dry on the high setting for 30 minutes
- Avoid sharing items (bedding, clothing, etc.) that may become contaminated
Check out the listing of NFPA codes and standards, many of which deal with the health and safety of firefighters and EMS workers.