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Methicillin-Resistant Staphylococcus Aureus (MRSA)

MRSA and You: What You Need to Know

What is MRSA?

Everyone has bacteria (germs) living on their skin and in their bodies. Most germs are helpful and don’t make you sick. MRSA is a germ that some common antibiotics, like methicillin, can’t kill. Another way to say this is that it has become resistant to some antibiotics. This makes it harder to treat infections caused by MRSA.

MRSA infections can be minor, like an infected pimple, boil, or abscess. They can also be serious, like an infected wound or pneumonia. MRSA commonly causes skin and soft tissue infections. These infections are usually treated with drainage, wound care, and the right antibiotics.

MRSA is more common in people who are taking antibiotics or who are being treated for a health problems. But anyone can get MRSA.

How is MRSA spread?

MRSA can be found in the nose, on skin, in urine, or in wounds. It can live for days or weeks on hard surfaces such as countertops and toilets, or shared items such as sports equipment.

MRSA spreads through contact with someone who is carrying or infected with MRSA. If a person has the germs on their hands (their hands are contaminated), they can pass MRSA to any person or thing they touch.

To help stop MRSA from spreading, clean your hands (also called hand hygiene) with soap and water or alcohol-based hand rub. It’s important to keep the area around you clean because it’s easy to get the germs on your hands again.

What are the risk factors for MRSA in the community?

There are five risk factors for getting MRSA in the community:

  • Living in in crowded places such as corrections facilities.
  • Being in close contact with someone who has MRSA such as in contact sports.
  • Living in an environment that is not clean.
  • Sharing used personal items such as towels, clothes, or razors.
  • Having cuts, cracked skin, or open sores such as a sore that is leaking.

How harmful is MRSA?

Colonization means that MRSA live on people, but they don’t cause any health problems. For most people, colonization with MRSA isn’t dangerous and doesn’t make them sick because their immune system keeps it under control.

Infection is when MRSA causes symptoms of infection such as pain and fever. Some people may be at risk of getting an MRSA infection. As with any other type of infection, it can become serious (e.g., an infected wound or pneumonia).

How is MRSA treated?

People who are colonized with MRSA, also called carriers, are not usually treated with antibiotics. Colonization with MRSA may go away without treatment.

People infected with MRSA are often given antibiotics. It’s very important to finish taking the whole prescription of antibiotics, even if you are feeling better.

How can I stop MRSA from spreading?

There are simple things you can do at home to stop MRSA and any other infections from spreading:

  • Clean your hands regularly. This is the best way to stop germs from spreading.
  • Do not share personal items such as towels, clothing, bar soap, or razors.
  • Clean your home regularly, especially the kitchen and bathroom. Refer to Learning about Reducing Germs and Infection in the Home for tips to stop germs from spreading at home.
  • Wash clothing using regular laundry soap in the regular wash cycle.
  • Clean shared items (e.g., sports equipment or surfaces like counters) with a household disinfectant.
  • See a doctor if you have any signs of an infection such as pain and fever.
  • Cover wounds that are draining with a clean, dry dressing.
  • You may go to work as usual. If you work with or near food, always use safe food handling procedures.

Tell your healthcare provider if you have MRSA or have had MRSA in the past.

It is safe for people to come to my home?

Yes, it’s safe for friends and family to visit you at home.

Current as of: March 29, 2019

Author: Infection Prevention and Control, Alberta Health Services