For the many lives impacted by MRSA each year, it often comes as a bit of a shock to learn that MRSA infections kill more people annually in the United States than AIDS. I personally found this shocking because I had heard so much about AIDS in school and in the media throughout my life, yet I had heard so little about MRSA when my dad died because of it in 2008. While approximately 18,000 individuals succumb to AIDS each year in the United States, another 18,650 lose their lives to MRSA infections.
MRSA is a term used to describe the several stains of Staphylococcus aureus that have become resistant to certain antibiotic treatments, meaning that they are harder to treat and especially threatening for individuals with compromised immune systems. MRSA is a common healthcare-associated infection, an infection acquired while receiving medical care, and is also a common cause of sepsis if allowed to enter the bloodstream.
Like many healthcare-associated infections, MRSA can live on the human body without causing any serious problems. This is problematic when patients enter hospitals for surgical procedures, which can present the opportunity for the bacteria to enter the patient’s body. Some individuals can also be carriers of the pathogen, passing it on to other people and thus causing problems for those whose bodies are unable to fight of the bacteria.
It is important to make the distinction that MRSA is a bacterial pathogen, whereas AIDS is caused by the human immunodeficiency virus, also known as HIV. In the last 30 years, significant improvements have been made in the fight against HIV/AIDS through various campaigns to raise awareness and other public health strategies. The progress that has been made to bring an end to the AIDS epidemic proves that when people are made aware of the problem at hand, as well as what can be done to prevent it, lives can be saved.
Another important distinction to be made between these two life-threatening pathogens is the various methods of transmission. HIV is transmitted through blood and bodily fluids, whereas MRSA is transmitted a number of various ways that may not be as apparent as with HIV/AIDS. For example, MRSA can be transferred through skin contact with an infected person, or any objects or surfaces that have been touched by an infected individual. As previously mentioned, some individuals can even be carriers of MRSA. Because such individuals do not have an active infection, they will more than likely remain unaware of their status as a carrier unless they are tested for MRSA, or develop an infection in an open wound.
It is important to reiterate that MRSA can occur in virtually any environment, not just hospitals. Any individual can develop an infection from MRSA, even without any knowledge of coming in contact with the bacteria. Comparing this killer to HIV/AIDS, we can learn that public awareness and general knowledge of the disease and what can be done to prevent it are of first and foremost importance in combating the epidemic.