The bacteria known as MRSA has been known to medicine for a number of years, but it seems like the germ is becoming more aggressive and more resistant to treatment.
MRSA stands for Methicillin Resistant Staph Aureus, a bacteria that it resistant to the most common … and now, it seems, the most powerful of antibiotics. (Methicillin used to be thought of as one of those “powerful antibiotics”).

One victim of MRSA is Daniel Fells, a tight end for the New York Giants. It’s been reported that Fells originally suffered an ankle sprain that was slow to respond to standard rehab. So, reports say, Fells was given a cortisone shot to speed up the healing and relieve inflammation — but a week later developed high fever and severe ankle pain. A trip to the ER, and admission to the hospital for powerful antibiotics wasn’t enough to slow the infection. That’s when doctors began a series of surgeries to clean up the infected ankle and foot.

So far, once again according to reports, those surgeries haven’t done the trick to fight off this nasty germ. If it has spread to the bone, antibiotics typically don’t work well, and amputation is being considered to prevent the spread of the germ into the bloodstream, where it can cause the kidneys and other organs to fail.

So let’s go backwards for second and talk about MRSA. We see it, or at least think of it, every time we see a skin infection. It never used to be that way, but just this week I saw some folks who I put on powerful combinations of antibiotics in the hope that if MRSA was present (before any culture comes back to tell me yes or no), we’ve caught it before I have to admit the patient to the hospital for IV antibiotics, with possible surgeries to clean destroyed tissue from the rapidly growing germ. One antibiotic simply doesn’t do the trick, and the antibiotics I used on soldiers, for example, within the past decade don’t work anymore.

This bug seems to be one step ahead of us.

How do you get it? We don’t always know. It’s estimated that one in 20 people carry the germ naturally on their skin — that’s 5 percent — and it could be higher. Get a break in the skin and that germ now has entry into the body. Or that germ can be spread to someone else.

Last year, there were about 75,000 MRSA infections, but about 60,000 of these were acquired in a hospital setting (meaning you were a patient and you were infected while in the building, so you can see why we consider home a safer environment in many ways than a health care facility).

When MRSA is acquired in the community, it usually less serious — but not always. We do know, for example, that MRSA is spread in close quarters like dorms, prisons, military barracks, and yes — sports complexes. Share a towel, a razor, a piece of equipment, a whirlpool — and the chance for spread is there. And even though we worry that you don’t need to have an open cut or wound to get it — MRSA usually sneaks its way into scrapes, or even microscopic breaks in the skin. That’s why we tend to see people who play contact sports get infected with this germ.

BTW, I know the NFL protocols calls for disinfection of locker rooms, meeting rooms, etc., but this is a germ that can literally fall through the cracks, and is extremely hard to totally eliminate.

So what do you need to know? Any wound, even a scrape, needs to be cleansed thoroughly with soap and water — not just a quick rinse. Then, if there is any redness, swelling, soreness, blistering, get that wound checked out ASAP. And if there is any fever or pain — all bets are off. GET CHECKED!

As for Daniel Fells, thoughts and prayers to him as he fights this battle. It’s certainly bigger than any football game, whether it is Pop Warner or the National Football League.

Dr. Dave Hnida is CBS4’s Medical Editor. He blogs about the latest studies and trends in the health world. Read his latest blog entries, check out his bio or follow him on Twitter @drdavehnida

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