MRSA and the Workplace
Workers who are in frequent contact with Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) and staph-infected people and animals are at risk of infection. These included those in hospitals and healthcare facilities, correctional facilities, daycare facilities, livestock settings, and veterinary clinics. For more general information on MRSA, visit the CDC MRSA page.
Frequently Asked Questions for the Workplace
NOTE: This information is provided for general workplaces, not healthcare facilities. Healthcare workers should refer to the information on the CDC MRSA Healthcare Settings page.
Can I get MRSA from my work?
MRSA is transmitted most often transmitted by
- direct skin-to-skin contact or
- contact with shared items or surfaces (e.g., towels, used bandages) that touched someone else’s infected site.
Animals with MRSA can also transfer the infection to people who frequently handle them. However, people are usually the source of the infection in animals.
MRSA skin infections can occur in any type of workplace. However, some workplace settings have factors that make it easier for MRSA to transmit. These factors, referred to as the 5 C’s, are:
- frequent skin-to-skin Contact,
- Compromised skin (i.e., cuts or abrasions),
- Contaminated items and surfaces, and
- lack of Cleanliness.
Common locations with the 5 C’s include schools, dormitories, military barracks, gyms, households, correctional facilities, daycare centers, and areas where animal handling is common, such as veterinary clinics and livestock settings.
If I have MRSA, can I go to work?
Unless directed by a healthcare provider, workers with MRSA infections should be able to go to work.
Exclusion from work should be reserved for those who cannot properly cover and contain wound drainage (“pus”) with a clean, dry bandage and for those who cannot maintain good hygiene practices.
Workers with active infections should not conduct activities where skin-to-skin contact with the affected skin area is likely to occur until their infections heal.
What should I do if I think I have a staph or MRSA infection?
See your healthcare provider and follow your healthcare provider’s advice about returning to work.
If I have staph, or a MRSA skin infection, what can I do to prevent the spread of MRSA at work and at home?
You can prevent spreading staph or MRSA skin infections to others by following these steps:
- Cover your wound. Keep areas of the skin affected by MRSA covered. Keep wounds that are draining or have pus covered with clean, dry bandages. Follow your healthcare provider’s instructions on proper care of the wound. Pus from infected wounds can contain staph and MRSA, so keeping the infection covered will help prevent the spread to others. Bandages or tape can be discarded with regular trash.
- Clean your hands. You, your family, and others in close contact should wash their hands frequently with soap and warm water or use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer, especially after changing the bandage or touching the infected wound.
- Do not share personal items. Avoid sharing personal items such as uniforms, personal protective equipment, clothing, towels, washcloths, or razors that may have had contact with the infected wound or bandage.
- Talk to your doctor. Tell any healthcare providers who treat you that you have or had a staph or MRSA skin infection.
What should I do if I suspect that my uniform, clothing, personal protective equipment, or workstation is contaminated with MRSA?
Wash soiled uniforms, clothing, sheets, and towels with water and laundry detergent. Drying clothes in a hot dryer, rather than air-drying, also helps kill bacteria in clothes. Use a dryer to dry clothes completely. Wash clothing according to the manufacturer’s instructions on the label.
Cleaning contaminated equipment and surfaces with detergent-based cleaners or Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)-registered disinfectants removes MRSA from the environment. Check the disinfectant product’s label on the back of the container. Most, if not all, disinfectant manufacturers will provide a list of microorganisms on their labels that their products can destroy. Make sure to follow the instruction labels when using cleaners and disinfectants. Using these products safely and appropriately can prevent irritation or other health problems. Where disinfection is concerned, more is not necessarily better. EPA has guidance for employers for less hazardous antimicrobial products
Environmental cleaners and disinfectants should not be used to treat infections. The EPA provides a list of EPA-registered products effective against MRSA.
What can my boss (employers) do to prevent the spread of staph or MRSA at the workplace?
- Place importance on worker safety and health protection in the workplace
- Ensure the availability of adequate facilities and supplies that encourage workers to practice good hygiene
- Ensure that routine housekeeping in the workplace is followed
- Ensure that contaminated equipment and surfaces are cleaned with detergent-based cleaners or Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)-registered disinfectants
- Encourage workers to seek early treatment of possible infections from their healthcare provider
Preventing the Spread of MRSA in Correctional Facilities
NIOSH has created 14 easy-to-read publications on how to stop the spread of MRSA in correctional facilities. The materials cover a number of topics, including basic facts about MRSA, what to do if you have a skin infection, hand hygiene, personal protective equipment, environmental sanitation, laundry, and not sharing personal items.
For Correctional Staff
If You Have a MRSA Infection (Correctional Staff)
For Correctional Officers
For Correctional Facilities