Infectious Diseases

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MRSA: Methicillin-Resistant Staphylococcus Aureus

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What is MRSA?

MRSA is a type of Staphylococcus Aureus bacteria that is resistant to some kinds of antibiotics. Resistance means the bacteria is not killed by the drugs that were once used to treat them. This resistance is to antibiotics only, not to cleansers or disinfectants.

What is Community-Acquired MRSA (CA-MRSA)?

When MRSA causes an infection in people who have not been hospitalized nor had a medical procedure within the last year, it is called CA-MRSA.

What are the symptoms of MRSA?

When an infection with MRSA occurs, the symptoms depend on where the infection occurs. MRSA can cause skin infections such as boils, rashes or open wounds. More serious infections may cause pneumonia, bloodstream infections, or surgical wound infections. MRSA can also be found in people on their skin, but they do not have an infection and are well. This is often called colonization when the MRSA is not causing any problems.

How is it spread?

MRSA is usually spread through direct physical contact or through contact with objects contaminated with infected bodily fluids. If you pick up the bacteria on your hands through physical contact with an infected person or from a contaminated surface, you can spread it to others if you don’t wash your hands frequently and properly.

Who gets MRSA?

MRSA infections occur most commonly among persons in healthcare facilities. However, CA-MRSA infections are becoming more common in the community. Anyone can get it; however outbreaks have been seen among athletes, prisoners, military recruits, child care attendees, injection-drug users and other groups of people who live in a crowded setting and/or routinely share personal items that may be contaminated.

What precautions should I take at home and in the community to prevent spreading MRSA?

  • Frequently perform hand hygiene. Hand hygiene is the term for cleaning hands either by using an alcohol-based hand rub (60-90% alcohol concentration) or soap and water when your hands are visibly soiled.
  • Anyone who helps you with your personal hygiene should also practice hand hygiene after assisting you.
  • If you have an MRSA skin infection, practice hand hygiene before and after touching your wound. Keep skin infections and wounds covered with clean, dry bandages. The drainage is very infectious. Place used bandages into a plastic bag and directly into the garbage. Contact your doctor if your wound has increased drainage, redness or a foul smell.
  • Avoid contact sports until the skin infection has healed.
  • Maintain excellent personal hygiene through regular bathing or showering.
  • Do not share personal items (razors, towels, bar soap, washcloths, sporting gear, etc.) that may have been in contact with wound drainage.
  • Dishes and cutlery can be washed by hand with dish soap and hot water or in a dishwasher.
  • Clothes and linen can be washed in the regular household laundry; dry clothes in the dryer, rather than air-drying as the heat helps to kill bacteria on clothes. If your clothes are heavily soiled with body fluids such as pus, wash them separately.
  • Clean surfaces (e.g., counter tops, door handles) with soap and water then use a household disinfectant on a regular basis.
  • Garbage may be disposed with regular household garbage.

Is MRSA infections treatable?

Yes. Most MRSA infections are treatable with antibiotics.

Is it possible that my MRSA skin infection will come back after it is cured?

Yes. It is possible to have MRSA skin infection recur after it is cured. To prevent this from happening, follow your healthcare provider’s directions while you have the infection, and follow the precautions mentioned earlier after the infection is gone.

What else do I need to know if I have MRSA?

Always tell your physicians, nurses or other care providers that you have MRSA. This helps prevent spread to others who may be ill already.

This fact sheet provides basic general information only and is to be used as a quick guide, not as a complete resource on the subject. If you have any further questions, ask your health care provider.

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