In the previous two articles, I explained why resistance to antibiotics is a public health issue of concern and presented some information on the NWT experience with hospital acquired infections. However, the biggest challenge that we now face is the spread of AROs within our homes and communities.
For example, MRSA infections in the NWT have increased dramatically over the past decade, from 12 cases in 2004 up to 223 cases in 2013. More importantly, over 90 per cent of cases are now involving a community strain of the bacteria. All regions of the NWT are impacted, with the highest rates being observed in the Tlicho and Beaufort-Delta.
MRSA spreads by direct skin to skin contact and/or by touching objects contaminated with MRSA. Risk factors for acquiring an MRSA infection include living in crowded conditions, having frequent close physical contact with others (MRSA outbreaks have occurred among sports teams), suffering from a chronic skin condition like eczema or scabies, and poor personal hygiene. In the NWT there is often an increase during the summer months, especially among children, presumably from increased scratching associated with insect bites.
Here are some ways of avoiding being colonized by MRSA:
- Keep your hands clean by washing with soap and water or using hand sanitizer.
- Use a moisturizer if your skin tends to be dry.
- Regularly clean shared objects and wipe frequently touched surfaces (such as telephones, remotes, light switches and doorknobs) with a regular household cleaner.
- Do not share personal items such as towels, clothing, bedding, bar soap, razors, helmets or other athletic equipment. AROs can live on such items for weeks!
To prevent the emergence and spread of AROs, you should also:
- Avoid taking an antibiotic for a viral infection like a cold or the flu.
- Take an antibiotic exactly as the healthcare provider tells you. Do not skip doses. Complete the prescribed course of treatment even if you are feeling better. If treatment stops too soon, some bacteria may survive and re-infect.
- Never take antibiotics prescribed for someone else. The antibiotic may not be appropriate for your illness. Taking the wrong medicine may delay correct treatment and allow bacteria to multiply.
- Discard any leftover antibiotic once you have completed your prescribed course of treatment.
Keeping up to date with recommended immunizations also plays a part in the fight against AROs, as it prevents getting infected and spreading microorganisms to others. These simple measures will help us reduce the burden of AROs in our communities. However, if you have additional questions or concerns about AROs, do not hesitate to talk to a health care provider about it or contact the Office of the Chief Public Health Officer at email@example.com.
Dr. André Corriveau; NWT Chief Medical Officer