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Methicillin resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA)

Learn About Methicillin resistant Staphylococcus Aureus (MRSA) in the Hospital

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What is MRSA?

  • Staphylococcus aureus (or Staph) is a germ (bacteria) that lives on the skin and in the noses of many people.
  • MRSA is resistant to commonly used antibiotics. MRSA is one of many antibiotic resistant organisms (AROs).
  • MRSA infections can be minor, like a pimple, boil, or abscess. They can also be serious, like an infected incision or pneumonia.

How does it spread?

  • MRSA can be found on the skin, in stool, urine, or in wounds. It can live on hard surfaces (e.g., countertops, toilets, equipment) for days or even weeks.
  • MRSA is spread through contact with someone who’s carrying or infected with MRSA. It can be passed from dirty hands to any person, object, or surface they touch.

  • If you touch an object or surface that has MRSA on it, you can spread the MRSA to another person or another object. This can happen in the community or in healthcare settings; you likely won’t know where you came into contact with MRSA.​

What do colonization and infection mean?

  • Colonization –This is when the germ is found on your body but it doesn’t make you sick. Some people normally have MRSA in their body. In this case it’s no more dangerous than any of the other germs we live with. People who are colonized with MRSA are sometimes called carriers.
  • Infection – Infection is what happens when a germ makes you sick. Some people may be at more risk for infection. Symptoms may include pain and fever. As with any other type of infection, some infections can become serious.

How is it treated?

  • People who are carriers aren't usually treated with antibiotics. Colonization with MRSA may go away without any treatment.
  • People infected with MRSA are often given antibiotics. It’s very important to finish the prescription for antibiotics, even if you’re feeling better.

What do I do if I have or have had MRSA?

  • Let the staff know you have or have had MRSA.
    • A sign will be put on your door reminding people to use extra precautions.
    • Caregivers will wear a gown over their clothes and wear gloves.

What can I do to decrease the spread of MRSA?

  • Clean your hands regularly with soap and water or with alcohol-based hand rub (with at least 70% alcohol in it). Antibacterial soaps are not recommended or needed most of the time.
  • Use antibiotics wisely. Antibiotic-resistant bacteria develop because antibiotics aren’t used or taken properly.
    • Antibiotics only work for bacterial infections. They don’t help for colds, the flu, or other viral infections.
    • Take all your antibiotics, even if you feel better. If you don’t finish them, it may not cure your infection.
    • Don’t use other people’s antibiotics. Different antibiotics are meant for different types of bacteria. Using the wrong one helps the germ become resistant to the antibiotic.
  • Don’t share personal items (e.g., towels, clothing, bedding, bar soap, razors, or sports equipment).
  • 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 for any signs of an infection.
  • Cover wounds that are draining with clean, dry dressing.

Current as of: February 27, 2015

Author: Infection Prevention and Control, Alberta Health Services