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Methicillin-Resistant Staphylococcus Aureus (MRSA)

MRSA: What it is and how to stop the spread

​​​​​​​​What is MRSA?​

Everyone has bacteria (also called germs) living on their skin and in their bodies. Most germs are helpful and don’t make you sick. But some germs are harmful and can cause infections. MRSA (methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus) is a germ that some common antibiotics can’t kill. Another way to say this is MRSA has become resistant to some antibiotics, so it’s harder to treat MRSA infections.​

What infections does MRSA cause?

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.

Who can get MRSA?

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

Where is MRSA found?

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.

How does MRSA spread?

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

How harmful is MRSA?

Colonization means that MRSA lives on you but doesn’t cause health problems. For most people, colonization isn’t dangerous, and it usually won’t make you sick because your immune system keeps it under control.

Infection is when MRSA causes symptoms such as pain and fever. Some people may be at risk of getting an MRSA infection. As with any type of infection, it can become serious.

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 often get antibiotics that are effective against MRSA. It’s very important to finish taking the whole prescription of antibiotics, even if you’re feeling better.

What are the risk factors for MRSA?

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 a place that isn't clean.
  • Sharing used personal items such as towels, clothes, or razors.
  • Having cuts, cracked skin, or open sores.

How can I stop MRSA from spreading?

There are simple things you can do to stop MRSA and other germs from spreading:

  • Clean your hands regularly with soap and water or alcohol-based hand rub (hand sanitizer). This is the best way to stop germs from spreading.
  • Don’t share personal items such as towels, clothing, bar soap, or razors.
  • Clean your home regularly, especially the kitchen and bathroom.
  • Wash clothing using regular laundry soap in the regular wash cycle.
  • Clean shared items (like sports equipment and 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.
  • Always use safe food-handling procedures when you’re working with or near food.
  • Tell your healthcare provider if you have MRSA or you’ve had it in the past.

If I have an MRSA infection, is it safe for people to come to my home?

It’s safe for friends and family to visit you at home if you have an MRSA infection. Follow all the advice about how to stop it from spreading.​

Current as of: April 12, 2021

Author: Infection Prevention and Control, Alberta Health Services