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Information for patients

“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 serious infections such as skin or wound infections, pneumonia, or infections of the blood. When staph infections go untreated, they can lead to serious problems including sepsis, a life-threatening reaction to severe infection in the body.

Antibiotics are given to kill staph germs when they cause infections. Some staph germs are resistant to several antibiotics, meaning the 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.

Who is Most Likely to Get an MRSA Infection?

In healthcare facilities such as hospitals and nursing homes, patients 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 are more likely to get an infection.

Being treated in the same room as or close to another patient with MRSA also increases a patient’s risk, as the bacteria are easily spread on unclean hands or medical equipment.

People who are healthy and who have not been in the hospital or a nursing home can also get MRSA infections. These infections usually involve the skin. More information about this type of MRSA infection, known as community-associated MRSA, is available here.

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How Do I Get an MRSA Infection?

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.

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Can MRSA Infections be Treated?

Yes, there are antibiotics that can kill MRSA germs. Some types of MRSA infections need surgery to drain infected areas. Your doctors or nurse 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.

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What Are Some of the Things that Healthcare Facilities are Doing to Prevent MRSA Infections?

To prevent MRSA infections, doctors, nurses, and other healthcare workers:

  • 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. 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.

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What Can I Do to Help Prevent MRSA Infections?

  • In healthcare facilities, family members of patients can help make sure that all doctors, nurses, and other healthcare providers clean their hands with soap and water or an alcohol-based hand sanitizer before and after touching you. If you do not see your providers clean their hands, ask them to do so. This can be intimidating but it could save lives. Find tips for starting this conversation here.

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Going Home

  • 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.
  • 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.

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Can My Friends and Family Get MRSA When They Visit Me?

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.

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What Should I Do When I Go Home From the Hospital?

To prevent another MRSA infection and to prevent spreading MRSA to others:

  • Keep taking any antibiotics prescribed by your doctor. Take them exactly as prescribed. Don’t take half-doses or stop before you complete your prescribed course.
  • Clean your hands often, especially before and after changing your wound dressing or bandage.
  • People who live with you should clean their hands often as well.
  • Keep any wounds clean and covered, and change bandages as instructed until healed.
  • Avoid sharing 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.
  • Your doctor might have more instructions for you.

If you have questions, please ask your doctor or nurse.

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