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Learning About Preventing MRSA Infection

What is a MRSA infection?

MRSA stands for methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus. It is a type of bacteria that can cause a staph infection.

Staph bacteria normally live on your skin and in your nose, usually without causing problems. Sometimes the bacteria cause infection. Usually you can treat this infection with antibiotics.

But MRSA infections are harder to treat than other staph infections. This is because antibiotics may not be able to kill MRSA. For some people, especially those who are weak or ill, MRSA infections can become serious.

MRSA can spread from person to person. It is commonly spread from the hands of someone who has MRSA. This could be anyone in a health care setting or in the community.

MRSA is more likely to develop when antibiotics are used too often or aren't used the right way. Over time, bacteria can change so that these antibiotics no longer work well.

How can you prevent MRSA infection?

Practise good hygiene

  • Wash your hands often and thoroughly with soap and clean, running water. You can also use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer. Hand-washing is the best way to avoid spreading germs.
  • Keep cuts and scrapes clean and covered with a bandage. Avoid contact with other people's wounds or bandages.
  • Don't share personal items such as towels or razors.
  • If you are in the hospital, remind doctors and nurses to wash their hands before they touch you.

Use antibiotics wisely

  • Always ask your doctor if antibiotics are the best treatment. They can help treat bacterial infections, but they can't cure viral infections. Don't pressure your doctor to prescribe antibiotics when they won't help you get better.
  • If your doctor prescribed antibiotics, take them as directed. Do not stop taking them just because you feel better. You need to take the full course of antibiotics. Using only part of the medicine may cause antibiotic-resistant bacteria to develop.
  • Do not save any antibiotics. Don't use antibiotics that were prescribed for someone else.

What are the symptoms?

Symptoms of a MRSA infection depend on where the infection is:

  • If the infection is in a wound, that area of your skin may be red or tender.
  • If the infection is in the skin, you may have boils or abscesses. It may look like you have been bitten by a spider or insect.

How is it diagnosed?

The doctor will take a sample of your infected wound or take a blood or urine sample. The sample is tested to see if antibiotics can kill the bacteria. This test may take several days.

You may also be tested to see if you are a MRSA carrier. A carrier is a person who has the bacteria on his or her skin but who isn't sick. The doctor will take a swab from the inside of your nose for this test.

How is MRSA treated?

Your doctor may:

  • Drain your wound.
  • Give you antibiotics as pills or through a needle put in your vein (I.V.).
  • Give you an ointment to put on your skin or inside your nose.
  • Have you wash your skin daily with an antiseptic soap.

You may have to stay in the hospital for treatment. In the hospital, you may be kept apart from others to reduce the chances of spreading the bacteria.

Follow-up care is a key part of your treatment and safety. Be sure to make and go to all appointments, and call your doctor or nurse advice line (811 in most provinces and territories) if you are having problems. It's also a good idea to know your test results and keep a list of the medicines you take.

Where can you learn more?

Go to

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