Knowledge is Power: Understanding the Facts About MRSA
Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus Aureus (MRSA) is a type of staph bacteria that is resistant to certain antibiotics called beta-lactams. These antibiotics include methicillin and other more common antibiotics such as oxacillin, penicillin, and amoxicillin. In the community, most MRSA infections are skin infections. More severe or potentially life-threatening MRSA infections occur most frequently among patients in healthcare settings.
MRSA in healthcare settings usually causes more severe and potentially life-threatening infections, such as bloodstream infections, surgical site infections, or pneumonia. The signs and symptoms will vary by the type and stage of the infection.
In the community, most MRSA infections are skin infections that may appear as pustules or boils which often are red, swollen, painful, or have pus or other drainage. They often first look like spider bites or bumps that are red, swollen, and painful. These skin infections commonly occur at sites of visible skin trauma, such as cuts and abrasions, and areas of the body covered by hair (e.g., back of neck, groin, buttock, armpit, beard area of men).
How MRSA is Spread in the Community
MRSA infections, as with all staph, are usually spread by having contact with someone’s skin infection or personal items they have used, like towels, bandages, or razors that touched their infected skin. These infections are most likely to be spread in places where people are in close contact with others—for instance, schools and locker rooms where athletes might share razors or towels.
Factors that have been associated with the spread of MRSA skin infections include: close skin-to-skin contact, openings in the skin such as cuts or abrasions, contaminated items and surfaces, crowded living conditions, and poor hygiene. People may be more at risk in locations where these factors are common, including:athletic facilities, dormitories, military barracks, households, correctional facilities, and daycare centers.
Risks from Contaminated Surfaces
MRSA is found on people and not naturally found in the environment (e.g., soil, the ocean, lakes). MRSA could get on objects and surfaces outside the body if someone touches infected skin or certain areas of the body where these bacteria can live (like the nose) and then touches the object or surface. Another way that items can be contaminated with staph and MRSA is if they have direct contact with a person’s skin infection. Keeping skin infections covered with bandages is the best way to reduce the chance that surfaces will be contaminated with MRSA.
Even if surfaces have MRSA on them, this does not mean that you will definitely get an infection if you touch these surfaces. MRSA is most likely to cause problems when you have a cut or scrape that is not covered. That’s why it’s important to cover your cuts and open wounds with bandages. MRSA can also get into small openings in the skin, like the openings at hair follicles. The best defense is good hygiene. Keep your hands clean, use a barrier like clothing or towels between you and any surfaces you share with others (like gym equipment) and shower immediately after activities that involve direct skin contact with others. These are easy ways to decrease your risk of getting MRSA.
Hospitals and Healthcare Settings
Healthcare procedures can leave patients vulnerable to MRSA, which is typically spread in healthcare settings from patient to patient on unclean hands of healthcare personnel or through the improper use or reuse of equipment.
Hands may become contaminated with MRSA by contact with:
- colonized or infected patients;
- colonized or infected body sites of the personnel themselves; or
- devices, items, or environmental surfaces contaminated with body fluids containing MRSA.
Appropriate hand hygiene such as washing with soap and water or using an alcohol-based hand rub can prevent the spread of MRSA.Source: CDC.gov