Preventing Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA)

Key points

  • MRSA can survive on some surfaces for hours, days or even weeks.
  • MRSA can spread to people who touch a contaminated surface (a place where the germ lives or is present).
  • MRSA prevention efforts can reduce infections.


MRSA can survive on some surfaces, like towels, razors and furniture, for hours, days or even weeks. It can spread to people who touch a contaminated surface and can cause infections if it gets into a cut, scrape or open wound.

Even when a surface appears clean, it can still have germs.

What to look out for

  • Look for signs of skin infection such as:
    • Pain at sites where your skin has sores, abrasions or cuts. Sometimes you can confuse these infections with spider bites.
    • Pus.
    • Redness.
    • Swelling.
    • Warmth (area is warm to touch).
  • You can find infection in places covered by body hair or where uniforms or equipment irritate or rub skin.

Prevention steps and strategies

  • Maintain good hand and body hygiene. Clean hands often and clean your body regularly, especially after exercise.
  • Avoid sharing personal items such as towels, washcloths and razors.
  • Keep cuts and scrapes clean and covered with bandages or dressing until healed.
    • Follow your healthcare provider's instructions about proper care of the wound. Pus from infected wounds can contain MRSA.
    • Do not pick at or pop the sore.
    • Throw away bandages and tape with the regular trash.
  • Use barriers, like a towel or clothing, between your skin and shared surfaces.

Prevention methods

Keep surfaces clean

  • Regularly clean items such as computer keyboards or handheld electronic devices.
    • Always check for manufacturer cleaning instructions.
    • Consider a cleanable cover/skin (e.g., keyboard skin) if many people handle the item.
  • Focus on surfaces that contact people's bare skin like desks, chairs, benches, gym equipment, lockers, faucets, light switches and remote controls.
  • Clean any surfaces that could contact open wounds, cuts or boils.
  • Before using, read disinfectant labels to check:
    • Precautions you should take when applying the product. Wear gloves or aprons and make sure you have good ventilation during application.
    • How to apply the product to a surface.
    • How long you need to leave it wet on the surface to be effective (contact time).
    • If you need to rinse after using.
    • If the product is safe for the surface.
    • Instructions on how to prepare (e.g., dilute) if the product is a concentrate.

There is little evidence that spraying or fogging rooms or surfaces with disinfectants will prevent MRSA infections better than a targeted approach of cleaning surfaces.

Keep laundry clean

  • Wash laundry before use by others and clean your hands after touching dirty clothes.
  • You don't need to wash with hot water to remove MRSA from laundry. Also, some laundry detergents clean best at certain temperatures. Read and follow the clothing and soap or detergent label instructions.
  • Bleach is optional. Detergent alone will make laundry clean and safe for wear and use. Read the clothing label instructions to avoid damaging fabrics.

Prevent MRSA in higher risk settings

Prevent MRSA in health care

If you are a patient:

  • Clean your hands often, especially before and after changing your wound dressing or bandage.
  • If you have wounds, a catheter or dialysis port, make sure that you know how to take care of them to reduce your risk of infection. Each day ask if you can remove your temporary medical device.
  • If you see the medical device access area start to look infected (red, swollen, warm, draining), call your healthcare provider right away, especially if you have a fever.
  • Take antibiotics exactly as prescribed by your healthcare provider. Talk with your healthcare provider if you have any questions. Let your healthcare provider know if you develop any side effects, especially diarrhea.
  • Follow other instructions given by your healthcare provider.

If you are a visitor:

Chances of getting MRSA while visiting a patient with MRSA is very low. To decrease chances of getting MRSA, visitors should:

  • Clean your hands before you enter their room and when you leave.
  • Ask a healthcare provider if you need to wear protective gowns and gloves when you visit.

Prevent MRSA in other high-risk situations