“Staph” is a very common germ that about 1 out of every 3 people have on their skin or in their nose. This germ does not cause any problems for most people who have it on their skin.
But sometimes it can cause:
- skin or wound infections
- infections of the blood
- sepsis, the body’s extreme response to an infection
Antibiotics are given to kill staph germs when they cause infections. Some staph germs are resistant to several antibiotics, meaning these drugs are no longer able to cure the infections. Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus or MRSA is a type of staph that is resistant to the antibiotics that are often used to cure staph infections.
In healthcare facilities such as hospitals and nursing homes, patients or residents most likely to get an MRSA infection are those with other health conditions making them sick. Also, hospital or nursing home patients who have been treated with antibiotics, have wounds or invasive medical devices such as catheters, or have certain procedures like surgery or dialysis are more likely to get an infection.
Being treated in the same room as or close to another patient with MRSA can also increase a patient’s risk of getting MRSA, as the bacteria are easily spread on unclean hands or medical equipment. In general, the first step in getting a MRSA infection is carrying the germ (also called becoming colonized with MRSA). Once a person has MRSA they are at higher risk for getting an infection.
People who are healthy and who have not been in the hospital or a nursing home can also get MRSA infections. These community infections usually involve the skin. This type of MRSA infection is known as community-associated MRSA. There are steps you can take to prevent MRSA infections in the community where you live, work, and play.
People who have MRSA germs on their skin or who are infected with MRSA may be able to spread the germ to other people. In addition to being passed to patients directly from unclean hands of healthcare workers or visitors, MRSA can be spread when patients contact contaminated bed linens, bed rails, and medical equipment.
Yes, there are antibiotics that can kill MRSA germs. Some types of MRSA infections need surgery to drain infected areas. Your healthcare provider will determine which treatments are best for you.
It is important to get care for MRSA infections early. If left untreated, MRSA can quickly spread throughout the body and cause life-threatening problems including sepsis.
To prevent MRSA infections, healthcare personnel:
- Clean their hands with soap and water or an alcohol-based hand sanitizer before and after caring for every patient.
- Carefully clean hospital rooms and medical equipment.
- Use Contact Precautions when caring for patients with MRSA (colonized, or carrying, and infected). Contact Precautions mean:
- Whenever possible, patients with MRSA will have a single room or will share a room only with someone else who also has MRSA.
- Healthcare providers will put on gloves and wear a gown over their clothing while taking care of patients with MRSA.
- Visitors might also be asked to wear a gown and gloves.
- When leaving the room, healthcare providers and visitors remove their gown and gloves and clean their hands.
- Patients are asked to stay in their hospital rooms as much as possible. They should not go to common areas, such as the gift shop or cafeteria. They may go to other areas of the hospital for treatments and tests.
- Test some patients to see if they have MRSA on their skin. This test involves rubbing a cotton-tipped swab in the patient’s nostrils or on the skin.
- Apply topical medicines and antiseptics to try to decrease the amount of staph on a person’s body (also called decolonization).
The chance of getting MRSA while visiting a patient with MRSA is very low. To decrease the chance of getting MRSA your family and friends should:
- Clean their hands before they enter your room and when they leave.
- Ask a healthcare provider if they need to wear protective gowns and gloves when they visit you.
To prevent another MRSA infection and to prevent spreading MRSA to others:
- Take antibiotics exactly as prescribed by your healthcare provider. Talk with your healthcare provider if you have any questions about your antibiotics, or if you develop any side effects, especially diarrhea, since that could be a difficile infection, which needs to be treated immediately.
- Clean your hands often, especially before and after changing your wound dressing or bandage.
- People who live with you should clean their hands often.
- Keep any wounds clean and covered, and change bandages as instructed until healed.
- If you have wounds or an intravascular device (such as a catheter or dialysis port) make sure that you know how to take care of them to reduce your risk of infection.
- Ask each day if your temporary medical device (for example, a catheter) can be removed.
- If you see the access area start to look infected (red, swollen, warm, draining), call your doctor right away, especially if you have a fever.
- Do not share personal items such as towels or razors.
- Wash and dry your clothes and bed linens in the warmest temperatures recommended on the labels. Tell your healthcare providers that you have MRSA. This includes home health nurses and aides, therapists, and personnel in doctors’ offices.
- Follow other instructions given by your healthcare provider.
If you have questions, please ask your doctor or nurse.