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What is Methicillin-Resistant Staphylococcus Aureus (MRSA)?
Staphylococcus aureus, often referred to as "staph," is a bacteria
commonly found on the skin of healthy people. Occasionally, staph can
get into the body and cause an infection. This infection can be minor
(such as pimples, boils, and other skin conditions) or serious (such as
blood infections or pneumonia). Methicillin is an antibiotic commonly
used to treat staph infections. Although Methicillin was effective in
treating most staph infections, some staph bacteria have developed resistance
to it and can no longer be killed by this antibiotic. These resistant
bacteria are called
Aureus, or MRSA.
What is the difference between colonization and infection?
Colonization means that MRSA is present on or in the body but is NOT causing illness.
Infection means that MRSA is making the person sick. Colonized people can cause
the spread of infection.
Who gets MRSA?
MRSA infection, at one time, developed in hospitalized patients who were
elderly or very ill; or who had open areas on the skin or tubes going
into their body. However, MRSA, as of late, has been diagnosed in the
non-hospitalized patient. It has become a pathogen of the community. The
community can be defined as: shopping malls, locker rooms, grocery stores,
department stores, schools, play areas and all public areas.
Where is MRSA found?
MRSA can be found in many different body sites. To mention a few: on the
skin, in the nose, and in the blood and urine.
How common is MRSA?
A precise number is not known, but according to some estimates, as many
as 1.2 million people a year get an MRSA infection. The number of colonized
individuals is not known. The number of MRSA-positive persons is increasing
in Louisiana as in many other states across the nation.
Can MRSA spread?
Yes. MRSA can be spread from person to person by physical contact. Unwashed
hands, if having been in contact with MRSA, can spread the bacteria. MRSA
also can be spread by the use of contaminated equipment/environment. Droplets
(coughing, spitting, etc.) can spread MRSA and may occur when a person
sneezes (uncovered) or has a productive cough.
Is MRSA treatable?
Yes. Although MRSA is resistant to many antibiotics and often difficult
to treat, there are a few antibiotics that can successfully treat MRSA
infections. IV, as well as oral treatment, are available. Your physician
will determine your treatment plan. In most cases, people who are only
colonized with MRSA usually do not need treatment.
When a person with MRSA is being cared for at home, should the same precautions
be followed as when in the hospital?
While in the hospital, the patient with MRSA is placed in a private room
with isolation precautions (staff wears personal protective equipment,
such as gloves, gowns, and masks when indicated). Outside the health care
setting, contact with the person's body substances and used items
are the risk factors. Handwashing and disinfection of surfaces and/or
used items must be stressed.
In the home, the following precautions should be followed:
- Wash your hands frequently with soap and water or use an alcohol-based
- Keep your fingernails short.
- Cover your nose and mouth with a tissue when you cough or sneeze.
- Take a bath or shower every day. Encourage students who participate in
contact sports, like basketball and football, to shower immediately after
each practice or game.
- Do not reuse towels after bathing.
- Change your sheets and towels regularly. Wash clothes in hot water with
detergent and bleach (if appropriate). Dry clothes using a clothes dryer
on the hot setting to help kill bacteria.
- Do not share towels, razors, toothbrushes or other personal items.
- Keep cuts, scrapes and scratches clean and covered with a bandage.
- If you notice a pimple or small abscess, it is reasonable to use warm compresses,
apply an antibiotic ointment and keep the area covered with a bandage.
- See your health care provider at the first sign of infection in a cut (i.e.,
redness, swelling, pain or pus) or if you have large pustules or lesions.
- Clean high-use areas, such as showers, tubs, toilets and sinks, with a
diluted bleach solution (1 cup per gallon of water) frequently.
- If you are given antibiotics by your physician, take the entire prescription.
Is it safe to be in the same room as a person with MRSA?
It is recommended to have as normal a life as possible. Again, most healthy
people are at low risk of getting infected with MRSA if precautions are
followed. If family members or other visitors are healthy, it is ok for
them to be in the same room with a person with MRSA. Casual contact, such
as touching or hugging, is ok. However, hands MUST be washed after touching
the person or items they are touching. Persons who are very ill or who
have weak immune systems should have minimal contact with items belonging
to a person with MRSA, and physical contact should be limited to casual
touching. Everyone should always wash hands after physical contact with
a person with MRSA.
Can my children get MRSA by being around a person with MRSA?
Healthy people, including healthy children, can be at risk of getting infected
with MRSA. If proper handwashing is practiced after contact, healthy children
should be at minimal risk.
HANDWASHING IS THE SINGLE MOST IMPORTANT MEASURE TO PREVENT THE SPREAD
OF INFECTION. WHEN WASHING HANDS WITH SOAP AND WATER:
- Wet your hands with clean, running water and apply soap.
- Use warm water if it is available.
- Rub your hands together to make a lather and scrub all
- Continue rubbing your hands for 20 seconds. Need a timer?
- Imagine singing "Happy Birthday" twice through to a friend!
- Rinse hands well under running water.
- Dry your hands using a paper towel or air dryer. If possible, use your
paper towel to turn off the faucet.
REMEMBER: If soap and water are not available, use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer
to clean your hands.
WHEN USING AN ALCOHOL-BASED HAND SANITIZER:
- Apply product to the palm of one hand.
- Rub hands together.
- Rub the product over all surfaces of your hands and fingers until your
hands are dry.
WHEN SHOULD YOU WASH YOUR HANDS?
- Before preparing or eating food.
- After going to the bathroom.
- After changing diapers or cleaning up a child who has gone
- to the bathroom.
- Before and after tending to someone who is sick.
- After blowing your nose, coughing or sneezing.
- After handling an animal or animal waste.
- After handling garbage.
- Before and after treating a cut or wound.
Content Sources: North Oaks Infection Control Program, National Center for
Infectious Diseases, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, The Journal of
the American Medical Association, Association for Professionals in Infection
Control and Epidemiology and McKesson Corporation