BALTIMORE (WJZ) — A Columbia woman’s battle with a flesh-eating disease is part of a growing concern over MRSA. 

As Mary Bubala explains, health experts are urging the use of new guidelines to help prevent the spread of the deadly bacteria.

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Sandy Wilson looks healthy now, but a few years ago, the Columbia woman nearly died when a bacteria called MRSA ravaged her body.

“I ended up with losing a third of my stomach, a third of my pancreas, about half of my small bowel, my spleen, my gallbladder and they did an appendectomy while they were in there,” Wilson said.

MRSA is now the most common cause of skin infections and it’s deadly, killing 18,000 people a year, because the staph bacteria is resistant to some antibiotics and can be difficult to treat.  Infectious disease experts are recommending new guidelines.  They’re advising doctors which drugs work best and also urging not to overprescribe.

“Many patients with simple skin abscesses will not need antibiotics.  All they may require is drainage of the abscess,” said Dr. David Talan, Olive View-UCLA Medical Center.

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The so-called flesh-eating bacteria was initially found in hospitals, but it’s now spreading in dorms, schools, daycares and locker rooms.

“Where there is a lot of contact, like wrestling.  Even football players, including professional football teams, have had outbreaks of MRSA,” Talan said.

As for what the public can do?  Keep hands, cuts and scrapes clean.  Don’t share personal items, like toothbrushes or razors.

Wilson likely contracted MRSA in the hospital, possibly when she had a C-section.

“I knew that I had this little baby at home that I was trying really hard to get home to,” she said.

She considers herself lucky to have survived.

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MRSA skin infections are often mistaken for spider bites.  They account for 60 percent of all infections in emergency rooms.