Information about MRSA
What is MRSA?
MRSA stands for “methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus.”
MRSA is a type of Staphylococcus aureus (“staph”) bacteria, which is resistant to some kinds of antibiotics. It is resistant to a family of antibiotics related to penicillin that includes antibiotics called methicillin and oxacillin, and is often resistant to other antibiotics as well.
Pronunciation: MRSA is sometimes said as a single word, “mersa,” or by saying all four letters, “M-R-S-A.” Either way is correct.
To better understand MRSA it is helpful to learn about Staphylococcus aureus (“staph”) bacteria, because MRSA is a type of staph.
What is Staphylococcus aureus?
Staphylococcus aureus, often referred to as “staph,” are bacteria commonly carried on the skin or in the nasal cavity of healthy people. About 20-40% of the U.S. population carries staph bacteria on their bodies and yet the bacteria do not always cause illness or infection.
What kinds of infections do some people get from staph, including MRSA?
Staph bacteria are one of the most common causes of skin infections in the United States. Staph can cause many kinds of skin infections, like pimples, boils, rashes, and less commonly more severe skin and soft tissue infections. These infections often contain pus, may feel itchy or warm, and may be swollen or red. On occasion, staph can cause more serious infections such as surgical wound infections, bloodstream infections, and pneumonia.
What are the symptoms of an infection caused by MRSA?
The symptoms of a MRSA infection are largely the same symptoms of an infection due to non-drug resistant staph bacteria. Pimples, rashes, pus-filled boils, especially when warm, painful, red or swollen, can indicate that you have a skin infection possibly due to staph bacteria. If you are concerned about a skin infection, please see a healthcare provider. If staph infections do not get proper treatment, they can lead to more serious outcomes including, severe skin infection, bloodstream infections, and pneumonia. These symptoms could include high fever, swelling, heat and pain around a wound, headache, fatigue, and others.
How are staph bacteria spread?
Staph bacteria, including MRSA, are spread by direct skin-to-skin contact, such as shaking hands, wrestling, or other direct contact with the skin of another person. Staph are also spread by contact with items that have been touched by people with staph, like towels shared after bathing and/or drying off, or shared athletic equipment in the gym or on the field.
Remember, most people who have staph on their skin do not have symptoms of infections or illness caused by staph. These people are “colonized” with staph. People who do have skin infections should be very careful to avoid spreading their infection to others.
Skin infections start when bacteria get into a break in the skin such as a cut or scrape. Bacteria live on everyone’s skin and usually cause no harm. But when staphylococcus bacteria get into your body through a break in the skin, they can cause a “staph” infection. Staph infections may spread to other people through skin-to-skin contact and from shared items such as towels, bar soap, clothing and sports equipment.
What should I do if I think I have a staph/MRSA infection?
Keep the area clean and dry. See your physician, especially if the infection is large, painful, warm to the touch, or does not heal by itself.
Regular hand washing is the best way to prevent getting and spreading staph/MRSA:
- Keep your hands clean by washing them frequently with soap and warm water or hand sanitizer, and especially after direct contact with another person’s skin.
- Keep cuts and scrapes clean and covered with a bandage until they have healed.
- Avoid contact with other people’s wounds or bandages.
- Avoid sharing personal items such as towels, washcloths, toothbrushes, and razors. Sharing these items may transfer staph from one person to another.
- Keep your skin healthy, and avoid getting dry, cracked skin, especially during the winter. Healthy skin helps to keep staph/MRSA on the surface of your skin from causing an infection underneath your skin.
- See a physician if you have any questions or an infection that does not improve
For more information about MRSA, visit:
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. CA-MRSA Information for the Public
- Centers for Disease Control