What is MRSA?
Staphylococcus Aureus, or “Staph” is a very common germ that about 1 out of every 3 people have on their skin or in their nose. This germ does not cause any problems for most people who have it on their skin. But sometimes it can cause serious infections such as skin or wound infections, pneumonia, or infections of the blood.
Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus Aureus (MRSA) is a type of staph bacteria that is resistant to certain antibiotics called beta-lactams. These antibiotics include methicillin and other more common antibiotics such as oxacillin, penicillin, and amoxicillin. In the community, most MRSA infections are skin infections. More severe or potentially life-threatening MRSA infections occur most frequently among patients in healthcare settings. 25% to 30% of people carry the organism/bacteria but shows no clinical signs or symptoms of infection (the most common site for colonization is the nose).
What are the symptoms of MRSA?
As with all regular staph infections, recognizing the signs and receiving treatment for MRSA skin infections in the early stages reduces the chances of the infection becoming severe.
MRSA contracted in healthcare settings usually causes more severe and potentially life-threatening infections, such as bloodstream infections, surgical site infections, or pneumonia. The signs and symptoms will vary by the type and stage of the infection.
In the community, most MRSA infections are skin infections that may appear as pustules or boils which often are red, swollen, painful, or have pus or other drainage. They often first look like spider bites or bumps that are red, swollen, and painful. These skin infections commonly occur at sites of visible skin trauma, such as cuts and abrasions, and areas of the body covered by hair (e.g., back of neck, groin, buttock, armpit, beard area of men).
How do I get an MRSA infection?
People who have MRSA germs on their skin or who are infected with MRSA may be able to spread the germ to other people. MRSA can be passed on to bed linens, bed rails, bathroom fixtures, and medical equipment. It can spread to other people on contaminated equipment and on the hands of doctors, nurses, other healthcare providers and visitors.
How do I protect myself from MRSA Skin Infections?
The key to preventing MRSA infections is for everyone to practice good hygiene:
- Keep your hands clean by washing thoroughly with soap and water or using an alcohol-based hand rub.
- Keep cuts and scrapes clean and covered with a bandage until healed.
- Avoid contact with other people’s wounds or bandages.
- Avoid sharing personal items such as towels or razors.
If I have MRSA how do I keep it from spreading to others?
Prevent spreading MRSA skin infections to others by following these steps:
- Cover your wound.
Keep wounds that are draining, or have pus, covered with clean, dry bandages until healed. Follow your healthcare provider’s instructions on proper care of the wound. Pus from infected wounds can contain staph, including MRSA, so keeping the infection covered will help prevent the spread to others. Bandages and tape can be discarded with the regular trash.
- Clean your hands.
You, your family, and others in close contact should wash their hands frequently with soap and water or use an alcohol-based hand rub, especially after changing the bandage or touching the infected wound.
- Do not share personal items.
Avoid sharing personal items, such as towels, washcloths, razors, clothing, or uniforms that may have had contact with the infected wound or bandage. Wash sheets, towels, and clothes that become soiled with water and laundry detergent. Use a dryer to dry clothes completely.
- Maintain a clean environment
Establish cleaning procedures for frequently touched surfaces and surfaces that come into direct contact with your skin.
- Talk to your doctor.
Tell any healthcare providers who treat you that you have or had a staph or MRSA skin infection. There are things that can be done to protect people that carry staph/MRSA from getting an infection or spreading it to others when they are in the hospital or have surgery.
What is the treatment for MRSA Infections?
Treatment of MRSA will vary by the type and location of infection for skin infections, the treatment for may include having a healthcare professional drain the infection and, in some cases, prescribe an antibiotic. Do not attempt to treat an MRSA skin infection on your own, doing so could worsen or spread it to others. This includes popping, draining, or using disinfectants on the area. If you think you might have an infection, cover the affected skin, wash your hands, and contact your healthcare provider.
If you are given an antibiotic, be sure to take all of the doses (even if the infection is getting better), unless your healthcare professional tells you to stop taking it. Do not share antibiotics with other people or save unfinished antibiotics to use at another time.
If within a few days of visiting your healthcare provider the infection is not getting better, contact them again. If other people you know or live with get the same infection tell them to go to their healthcare provider.
It is possible to get repeat infections with MRSA. If you are cured of an infection, you do not become immune to future infections; therefore, the prevention steps listed above are key to preventing future infections.