I received a question from a reader concerned about the recent publicity given methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus bacteria that is now resistant to multiple antibiotics. I am not an expert on the particular staph involved, but I think the problem arise when it causes an infection by gaining entrance to the body through an open wound or some other method. Doctors, not knowing the infection they are treating is caused by the resistant bacteria, begin treatment as they normally would. By the time it is realized that the infection is not responding to the antibiotic treatment, the patient is often very sick. A few recent cases have resulted in death.
My knowledge on this comes the same way as most of us, by reading and listening to news reports. If anyone has some more specific information or links to add, please post them in a comment. If you have more than two links, remember that the comment will go to the moderation que. I will release it to be posted as soon as I see it, however.
The reader in question was concerned about cleaning their house in a way to make sure to kill all germs. I am not sure that the recent publicity calls for any changes in house cleaning methods. Many common household cleaners have risks associated with them that surpass the risk of a fatal staph infection. The American Poison Control Center Organization has reported that the largest number of annual poisonings are caused by household cleaning products.
So I would say, just clean well. At the very least do not use bleach spray on everything in sight. If you feel you need to use standard cleaners with bleach and other disinfectants, just be sure to follow precautions listed on the label, use gloves, and be sure to have ventilation as good as possible. I would even wear a mask or respirator designed to stop fumes. In other words, not just a dust mask. If you are interested in green cleaning products, there is some good information put out by the Seattle Public Health Department. There are also internet vendors who sell people and earth friendly products. I recommend them.
Lastly, there is sometimes confusion about germ killing cleaning products and antibacterial products. Antibacterial products are dangerous because they contribute to the rise of resistant bacteria like the MRSA staff infection. I wrote about this a while ago in a post that has become, by far, the most read article on this web site. Germ killing products do not and should not contain antibiotics. My personal opinion is that cleaning products do not even have to contain chemicals like bleach or ammonia to be effective, but that is a choice everyone has to be comfortable making for themselves.
So read the above links and consider making your house greener and safer for you and your family. And remember this when you read or listen to news reports about the latest person to die from one of the resistant bacteria…. There are over 300 million people in the United States alone! In 2005, there were 1,629 deaths from the infection, most of these, I have seen a figure of over 90%), a result of infections contracted when a patient was already in the hospital. If my quick math is correct, this means 5 thousandths of one percent of the U.S. population died from this in 2005. If you stay out of the hospital, your chances of death from MRSA were 5 ten thousandths of one percent! (No guarantees on the math, but it is a very small number!!) Numbers may be increasing, but they are still very small. My recommendations would be these: We need to stop using antibiotics to treat every small sinus infection that we might get. We need to stop using soaps, cleaners, and other products that contain antibiotics. As Meher Baba said and Bobby McFerrin sang… Don’t Worry, Be Happy! 🙂