Protecting Yourself from the Super Bug

First responders face a host of challenges and threats every day, but most are accepted as being a cost of doing the job. But your personal health and that of your family should not be one of the prices you pay for protecting others. Unfortunately firemen, EMS workers and police officers often find themselves exposed to the worst of the worst when it comes to the human condition and the disease it harbors. Learning to protect yourself can save you and your family from unnecessary and potentially life threatening illness later – even when facing the latest super bug.

What is this super bug? Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus, commonly referred to as MRSA, is the latest strain of the staph bacteria that has shown a resistance to many of the most common antibiotics. This resistance to treatment and the bacteria’s fast moving nature is why many refer to it as “the super bug.”

Over the course of my career, I have received training concerning a host of diseases and illnesses that were thought to be a risk to first responders. AIDS, hepatitis, and even the flu have all resulted in special alerts, training and even protective equipment being issued – but not MRSA. Why is this? Why have we as a profession not been warned of this super bug?

I am sure that some of you have heard of MRSA, but chances are that you heard of it do to involvement in sports or new precautions at the gym than work. Contact sports are thought to be one of the biggest at risk groups, as skin to skin contact is the easiest means of spreading MRSA. Other at risk groups include those under long term hospital care, living in overcrowding conditions and intravenous drug users. First responders are not listed, but almost everyone we come in contact with on a day to day basis are, so it only makes sense to take the necessary precautions.

Prevention – The easiest means of preventing MRSA is to avoid contact with those who may be infected. Of course, as first responders, we cannot choose with whom we have contact, so prevention becomes more reactive than proactive.

Wear Personal Protective Gear – If you have contact with an individual with sores or open wounds, make sure you wear the proper personal protective gear.

Wash Immediately – After having contact with someone who may be infected with MRSA, you should immediately wash your hands or other exposed areas with hot water and soap as soon as possible, drying with disposable towels to avoid spreading it further. Because we are not always near soap and water, I recommend carrying alcohol based sanitizer in your go bag.

Cover Wounds – If you develop any open sores or have an open wound, make sure you keep it covered. Open wounds can become more easily infected, and, if you are yourself infected, an open wound will allow others to become exposed.

Seek Treatment- Most cases of MRSA start as a small red bump, pimple or insect bite but quickly grow into deep, painful pus filled abscesses. Even small wounds that become warm to the touch, fill with puss or involve a fever require medical attention.

Disclaimer: The content in this article is the opinion of the writer and does not necessarily reflect the policies or opinions of US Patriot Tactical.

Tom Burrell

Tom enlisted in the US Marine Corps Reserves in 1987. Following service in Desert Storm, he transitioned to active duty with the US Coast Guard. In 1997 he left the USCG to pursue a position in conservation & maritime law enforcement. Tom is currently a Captain and he oversees several programs, including his agency investigation unit. He is also a training instructor in several areas including firearms, defensive tactics and first aid/CPR. In 2006 Tom received his Associate’s Degree in Criminal Justice from Harrisburg Area Community College and in 2010 a Bachelor’s Degree from Penn State University.
Tom Burrell

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