Your Bacteria-Fighting Battle Plan

Superbugs and the sicknesses they cause are on the rise, but don't get scared - get moving. Follow these simple steps to keep your family safe.

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You hear about them in the headlines everyday - bacteria in our food, around our homes, even on our body - that are making more and more of us sick, sometimes fatally so. Unfortunately, it's not just hype. Experts agree that we are facing a superbug epidemic. Harmful bacteria are spreading and growing stronger and more drug resistant. Unless you know what to do, you may be putting your family at risk for a fatal infection. Here is the life-saving information you need to win the war against the bad guys.

MRSA

Did you ever think methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) would become a common household term? It has, because last year MRSA killed 19,000 Americans, and experts believe that over 2 million of us are living with this deadly bacteria on our bodies.

What it is Staphylococcus aureus is a germ usually found in our nasal passages that can cause an infection in the right circumstances. When that happens, antibiotics can keep it in check. But MRSA is a particularly tough strain of staph that isn't vulnerable to antibiotics. MRSA first raised trouble in hospital settings, but in the past decade, hospitals have begun to win the war against this fatal super bug while the rest of us are losing it. In some parts of the country as many as 10% of people harbor MRSA. Though you can still contract MRSA in a healthcare setting, these days you're more likely to get it from a neighbor or a friend.

What it can do When MRSA meets an open sore on your body, it moves in and multiplies at an alarming rate causing you to develop a fever and your wound to become red, swollen, painful, and oozing. If you have a wound that won't heal, there's a good chance it has MRSA.

What you can do Ignore the old wives' tale that you should air-dry cuts; cover them to keep the bad guys out. If you end up in the ER - where three-quarters of people with wounds that won't heal test positive for MRSA - insist you get tested too. Don't share razors, towels, or soap with someone else. If you can, bring your own towel to the gym and health club, where MRSA can be lurking and towel-cleaning practices are sometimes not good enough to kill it. Wash your own towels every few days and dry on high. Try using tea tree ointment on any parts of your body you're concerned about. It's a safe, natural antiseptic that can help kill bacteria.