MARINE CORPS BASE CAMP LEJEUNE -- Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) sounds like the name of a deadly bug in some 1960’s Sci-Fi thriller. It may not be a 16-foot cockroach from outer space, but it is deadly, and Marines and Sailors are if steps aren’t taken to prevent its spread, you could be the cause. Called a “Super Bug” by worldwide media, MRSA – also known as a “staph” infection - is resistant to most antibiotics and causes serious, often fatal, infections. “Drug-resistant staphylococcus bacteria which once threatened mainly the sick and elderly in hospital and nursing homes have spread beyond institutional walls. They're now striking young, healthy people at a growing rate,” said Lt. Cmdr. Gene Garland, Community Health Services, Naval Medical Center Lejeune, prior to his deployment in support of the global war on terrorism. “The infection is spread by contact with infected skin or simply by sharing gear, towels, clothing, or other personal items.”According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), MRSA infections have historically developed in hospital patients. Recently, however, rates have increased in otherwise healthy persons, particularly affecting athletes, the physically active and children.Donnie Neil, Disease Intervention Specialist for the Naval Hospital, pointed out that military members are at a slightly higher risk for exposure, due to close-quarter living arrangements, as it can be spread by direct and indirect contact. He stressed that this makes field hygiene paramount, and importance of frequent disinfection by hand washing to avoid contamination. Liberal use of waterless alcohol-based hand rubs can also help prevent the spread of most types of infections.“Do not share towels, clothes or gear. Wipe down gym equipment with sanitizer after use. PT in PT Gear, continuing to wear a sweaty uniform may increase your risk of skin infection,” added Garland. “Seek medical attention promptly for boils or skin infections that worsen or are accompanied by fever.”Quick diagnosis and treatment, as well as closely-monitored recovery are essential, because this type of infection is resistant to normal medication, according to Neil. Infections are initiated when a breach in the skin – most commonly by injury, burn, surgery, or an insect bite – allows bacteria access to tissues or the bloodstream, according to Neil.This Super Bug is resistant to normal medications, which is why quick diagnosis and treatment, as well as closely-monitored recovery are essential, according to Neil.Symptoms of MRSA include joint pain, high fever and a rash that can develop into open sores or boils on the affected skin area. Infected persons may notice what appears to be blood “streaking” under the skin, which can appear within three to five days after infection.Since 2003, when the naval hospital began actively tracking this disease, they have treated 2,417 cases of MRSA. “What is encouraging is the decline seen from last year. Last season we saw a monthly average of 71 cases and currently we only see 50 cases per month,” said Lt. j.g. Thomas G. Cooper, Environmental Health Officer, NHCL. “This reduction of 21 monthly cases translates into recouping 1,764 lost training days per year.”Education and tracking continue to be an integral part of the success here at Camp Lejeune, according to Cooper. According to the experts, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.“Basic field hygiene can prevent the spread,” said Neil.For more information on CA-MRSA visit Navy Environmental Health Center’s Web site: www.nehc.med.navy.mil/DOWNLOADS/prevmed/MRSA_fact_sheet_final.pdf,CDC’s site: www.cdc.gov/ncidod/aip/research/mrsa.html, or contact your primary care manager.