MRSA (Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus)
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MRSA (Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus)

What is MRSA?

Staphylococcus aureus ("staph") is a common type of bacteria that can be found on the skin and in the nose of healthy people. Around 30% of people have staph bacteria but are not sick. Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus, or MRSA, is a less common type of staph infection that is resistant to certain antibiotics. MRSA may cause infections in the skin, lungs, and blood. Most MRSA infections occur in people who have been in a healthcare setting and are called healthcare-associated MRSA. Community-acquired MRSA infection is found in healthy people and is often spread through skin-to skin-contact. 

How is MRSA spread?

Factors that have been associated with the spread of MRSA skin infections include: close skin-to-skin contact, openings in the skin such as cuts or abrasions, exposure to contaminated items and surfaces, crowded living conditions, poor hygiene, and medical procedures or a stay in the hospital.

What do MRSA infections look like?

Staph bacteria, including MRSA, can cause skin infections that may look like a pimple or boil that can be red, swollen, painful, or have pus or other drainage. A fever is also often a symptom of a MRSA infection.  More serious infections may cause pneumonia, bloodstream infections, or surgical wound infections.

How is MRSA treated?

Many staph skin infections may be treated by your doctor by draining the abscess or boil. This should only be done by a healthcare provider.

Other staph and MRSA infections may require treatment with antibiotics. If you are given an antibiotic, take all of the doses, even if the infection is getting better, unless your doctor tells you to stop taking it. Do not share antibiotics with other people or save unfinished antibiotics to use at another time.

If, after visiting your doctor, the infection is not better within a few days, let your doctor know. If people you know or live with seem to have the same infection, encourage them to go to their doctor.

How can MRSA be prevented?

Practice good hygiene:

  • Keep hands clean by washing thoroughly with soap and water or by using an alcohol-based hand sanitizer when soap and water are not available.
  • Keep cuts and scrapes clean and covered with a bandage until healed.
  • Do not touch other people's wounds or bandages.
  • Do not share personal items such as towels or razors.
  • Wash used towels, sheets and clothes in hot water and use a dryer to dry them completely.
  • Use a barrier between skin and shared equipment in health clubs, saunas and gymnasiums.
  • Do not inject illegal drugs.

Hand Washing Instructions:

  • Use soap and running water
  • Rub your hands vigorously for 20 seconds
  • Wash all surfaces, including:
      • backs of hands
      • wrists
      • between fingers
      • under fingernails
  • Rinse well
  • Dry hands with a paper towel
  • Turn off the water using a paper towel instead of bare hands