Do you ever take those quizzes they write in magazines? I confess that I am a geek and feel compelled to take any quiz or test that comes along. (Thankfully this doesn’t happen as often as it did in Vet School!) So just this morning I’m reading Family Circle and the quiz “How Healthy is Your Home” appears. Of course, I dig right in. Question number 3 surprised me. Let’s see how you do. “What poses the biggest risk for staph or MRSA? A) A cutting board B) A toothbrush holder or C) A pet toy?”
Before you answer let me give you a little background on Staphylococcus aureus (Staph. aureus). It is a bacteria that is normally found on the skin and in the nasal passages of humans and some animals. The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) has estimated that 25-30% of humans carry Staph. aureus. Normally this bacteria does not cause any illness to either humans or animals. But if your body does not have the ability to fight infections, it can cause wounds to become infected. It is much less common in animals but they can become infected the same way that humans do: through direct skin-to-skin contact with an infected person or another animal or contact with a contaminated environment which unfortunately sometimes happens during a recent hospitalization. Staph. aureus infections usually respond well to common antibiotics like penicillin and amoxicillin. MRSA, simply stated, is a type of Staph. aureus that is not killed with these antibiotics.
So you probably answered correctly, a pet toy. (For the record, I got it wrong, I answered B) toothbrush holder.) The best way to protect you and your family is really simple, good hygiene. Wash your hands with soap and warm water for 15 seconds after touching your pet. Also do this after cleaning their water/food bowls, toys, bedding, etc. Clean the toys themselves. Hard pet toys should be cleaned monthly with hot soapy water, rinsed and disinfected with a mild bleach solution (2 teaspoons bleach in 1 quart of water), then rinsed again to remove any bleach residue. Food and water bowls should be cleaned this way at least weekly. Soft toys and bedding can be sanitized with other laundry on the hot water cycle.
I have never diagnosed a patient with MRSA at River’s Edge Veterinary Hospital but that still could mean that some animals are carriers and just not showing any symptoms. If you have any questions about MRSA don’t hesitate to contact your doctor. If you have been diagnosed with it and you are concerned about infecting your pet(s), please call me. I’d be happy to discuss other things to consider as you combat your illness. My phone number is 618-524-7500. If you live in Paducah, KY you may call 270-448-7500 so its a local call for you.