General Information About MRSA in Healthcare Settings
MRSA is methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus, a type of staph bacteria that is resistant to many antibiotics. In a healthcare setting, such as a hospital or nursing home, MRSA can cause severe problems such as bloodstream infections, pneumonia and surgical site infections. If not treated quickly, MRSA infections can cause sepsis and death.
- Who is at Risk, and How is MRSA Spread in Healthcare Settings?
- How Does Someone Know if MRSA is the Cause of an Infection?
- How Common is MRSA?
- Where Can I Find Information about MRSA Nationally and in My Area?
- Can MRSA Infections be Prevented?
- Is MRSA an Antibiotic-Resistance Problem?
Who is at Risk, and How is MRSA Spread in Healthcare Settings?
MRSA is usually spread by direct contact with an infected wound or from contaminated hands, usually those of healthcare providers. Also, people who carry MRSA but do not have signs of infection can spread the bacteria to others.
How Does Someone Know if MRSA is the Cause of an Infection?
The only way to know if MRSA is the cause of an infection is to perform a laboratory culture of the bacteria. Obtaining bacteria to culture is a procedure done by a doctor or nurse.
How Common is MRSA?
CDC is engaged in several short- and long-term surveillance (infection tracking) projects that involve collaboration with health departments, individual hospital, and academic medical centers, among others. Understanding the burden of MRSA – how much is occurring, where it is happening, and how it is being spread – is essential for developing effective prevention programs and measuring their impact. For more information about how CDC tracks MRSA infections, visit this page.
Studies show that about one in three (33%) people carry staph in their nose, usually without any illness. Two in 100 people carry MRSA. There are not data showing the total number of people who get MRSA skin infections in the community.
Although MRSA is still a major patient threat, a CDC study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association Internal Medicine showed that invasive (life-threatening) MRSA infections in healthcare settings are declining. Invasive MRSA infections that began in hospitals declined 54% between 2005 and 2011, with 30,800 fewer severe MRSA infections. In addition, the study showed 9,000 fewer deaths in hospital patients in 2011 versus 2005.
This report complements data from National Healthcare Safety Network (NHSN) that found a 50% from 1997 to 2007.
Taken together and with other reports such as the March 2011 CDC Vital Signs article [PDF – 2.75 MB], and a 2013 study showing a decrease in overall central line-associated bloodstream infections, these studies provide evidence that rates of hospital-onset, severe MRSA infections in the United States are falling. While MRSA remains an important public health problem and more remains to be done to further decrease risks of developing these infections, this decrease in healthcare-associated MRSA infections is encouraging.
Where Can I Find Information about MRSA Nationally and in My Area?
To see how states are working to prevent HAIs including MRSA, view this state-by-state report on HAIs, including MRSA infections, and this interactive map of state-based prevention activities.
CDC’s NHSN data are also used by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services to publicly report healthcare safety data at U.S. hospitals. This includes rates of MRSA infections. Visit www.medicare.gov/hospitalcompare to view information about your local hospitals.
For more information about CDC surveillance programs and reports related to MRSA, visit:
- CDC MRSA website
- CDC Healthcare-Associated Infections Community Interface Surveillance
- CDC’s Antibiotic Resistance Threat Report
- Medicare’s Hospital Compare
- CDC Vital Signs Report [PDF – 2.75 MB]
- National Healthcare Safety Network
- NHSN Annual Reports
- CDC Safe Healthcare Blog
For information about how to protect yourself and your loved ones from MRSA, visit the MRSA patient page.
Can MRSA Infections be Prevented?
Yes. Numerous studies and reports show that when healthcare providers follow CDC guidelines, MRSA infections can largely – if not completely – be prevented. These guidelines include a range of activities that healthcare facilities can implement to reduce or eliminate MRSA infections.
See Information for Inpatient Clinicians and Administrators for a statement on the use of Contact Precautions in inpatient acute care settings for patients known to be colonized or infected with MRSA.
Is MRSA an Antibiotic Resistance Problem?
Yes. Staph bacteria have become resistant to several antibiotics, making MRSA and other types of resistant staph major antibiotic-resistance problems. In CDC’s landmark report, Antibiotic Resistance Threats in the United States, 2013, CDC listed MRSA as a “serious threat.” See the report and the national plan to combat antibiotic resistance here.
- Page last reviewed: August 25, 2015
- Page last updated: May 23, 2018
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