The nature of offshore careers makes maritime workers susceptible to many health and injury risks. Maritime workers can suffer from serious wounds that can become susceptible to deadly infections.
The Houston maritime lawyers at Lapeze & Johns want you to know how important it is to be aware of the possible injuries you may face at sea. Our dedicated and experienced offshore legal team want you to know what actions you should take when faced with a life threatening offshore injury such as an MRSA infection.
What is MRSA?
Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus Aureus, or MRSA, is a strain of staph bacteria that has mutated to become resistant to the antibiotics that once treated it. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports that 1 in 3 people carry staph bacteria in their bodies. Staph lives in our nasal cavities and on our skin.
MRSA outbreaks are more likely to occur in areas where there are many people living. The bacteria flourishes on high touch areas such as tables, sinks, door knobs, and shower stalls.
Additionally, the CDC reports that 1 in 50 people carry this antibiotic resilient strain of staph. It causes as many as 90,000 infections and 18,000 deaths annually. The transmission of MRSA can result in bloodstream infections, pneumonia, sepsis – and in the more extreme cases – can result in the loss of limbs or even death.
Who is susceptible to MRSA?
Crowded living spaces make individuals more vulnerable to MRSA. It is more common in spaces where bacteria growth thrives and in areas that are not properly disinfected. Hospitals, nursing homes, schools, sports teams, military bases, and offshore vessels are all common spaces for MRSA outbreaks.
Individuals in careers that require physical force, and who suffer from frequent small cuts and wounds, are more susceptible to infection.
The CDC has listed five common causes of MRSA:
2. Contact (skin to skin)
3. Compromised skin (cuts and abrasions)
4. Contamination (bacteria on living surfaces)
5. Lack of general cleanliness
What are some of the symptoms of MRSA?
An MRSA staph infection may begin with a small red bump that can look like an insect bite. The bump may be itchy, irritated, and sensitive. Beware of the wound leaking liquids such as blood or puss. The individual may experience body aches and overall weakness. MRSA infection can also result in fever.
How to protect against infection at sea?
There are several ways that maritime workers may reduce their chances of infection by MRSA. Good hygiene such as frequently washing hands and changing clothes/ bed sheets are essential.
Disinfection of high touch surface areas and overall cleanliness are also highly recommended. Also, wearing protective gear and thicker garments while working can prevent cuts that can become infected.
Not all cleaning supplies can eliminate this resilient staph strain but a bleach mixture can be effective. Spray and clean high touch areas with a fresh solution of 1-part bleach to 9-parts water.
The CDC has five recommended preventative measures that include:
Disinfect high touch areas with a bleach solution
Wear protective gear and thick clothing to avoid cuts
Personal and general cleanliness
Do not share personal items: razors, towels, bar soap, etc.
Immediately clean and bandage any wounds
What should a maritime worker do if injured or infected?
Immediately report symptoms of MRSA to your captain or supervisor. Our Gulf Coast maritime attorneys recommend that the injured party report the work-related injury within 7 days of noticing symptoms. Your employer is required by law to see that you have received medical attention from the doctor of your choice.
All offshore injuries are serious and require attention and care. Bacterial infections such as MRSA can become life-threatening. If you are at sea and begin to experience symptoms, have the ship phone a physician or under more serious circumstances, call Coast Guard to get you to the hospital. When infected, time is crucial to saving a life.