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(mrsa) Methicillin Resistant Staphylococcus Aureus

What is MRSA?

MRSA (methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus) is a strain of staph bacteria that can cause infection. Staph bacteria are normal on your skin and in your nose. They do not usually cause infection. The bacteria can cause an infection if they get inside your body through a break in your skin. Usually, antibiotics are used to kill bacteria. MRSA bacteria are resistant to the common antibiotics used to treat Staph infections. MRSA infections are most common as skin infections. You can also have MRSA bacteria in your blood, lungs, heart, and bone.

What increases my risk for MRSA?

  • Contact or touching the infected skin of someone who has MRSA

  • Living in the same household as someone with MRSA

  • History of MRSA infection

  • Use of personal items such as towels or clothes of someone with MRSA

  • Touching items such as doorknobs that have MRSA bacteria on it

  • Being in crowded places where germs can be spread such as hospitals, daycare facilities, or locker rooms

  • Taking antibiotics frequently, or stopping or missing doses of antibiotics

What else do I need to know about MRSA infections?

You can have an active MRSA infection or you can be a carrier of MRSA bacteria and not have symptoms.

  • Active MRSA infection on your skin makes you contagious. This means your infection can spread to another person or your pet. MRSA spreads if the person or pet touches something that comes in contact with your infection. For example, MRSA can be transferred on towels, wash cloths, and clothes.

  • As a carrier of MRSA bacteria, you can spread the bacteria through your skin and your nose. Bathe daily and wash your hands frequently. Cover your mouth and nose when you sneeze and cough. These actions help to keep from spreading the bacteria to others.

What are the signs and symptoms of MRSA skin infection?

  • Skin sores

  • Bumps under your skin that are red and painful

  • A cut that is red, swollen, and filled with pus

  • Impetigo (fluid filled blisters)

How is MRSA diagnosed?

Your healthcare provider will ask you about recent antibiotic use and other risk factors. Tell him when your symptoms started. Tell him if anyone close to you has had an infection. You may need any of the following:

  • A wound culture may be done to check for MRSA bacteria. Your healthcare provider will swab your wound. He will send the swab to the to be tested. He may have to make an incision and drain your wound or abscess to get a proper sample.

  • Blood and urine tests may be done to see if MRSA bacteria are inside of your body.

  • A chest x-ray may be done to check for pneumonia.

How is MRSA treated?

Some MRSA infections of the skin can be treated at home. Other MRSA infections need hospital treatment for IV antibiotics. Treatment can help prevent the spread of MRSA infection to other parts of your body. Treatments may include:

  • Incision and drainage of boils, sores, or an abscess may be done to open and drain infected fluid and pus. The fluid causes bacteria to stay in your wound and keeps it from healing.

  • Antibiotics may be given for infection inside your body or deep skin infections. Take your antibiotics as prescribed. Take them until you have taken them all.

How can I prevent the spread of active MRSA infection?

  • Wash your hands often. This is the most important thing you can do to prevent the spread of infection. Wash your hands several times each day especially before and after you change your bandage. Carry germ-killing gel with you and use it to clean your hands when you have no soap and water. Encourage everyone in your house to wash their hands with soap and water after they use the bathroom. Everyone should also wash their hands before they prepare or eat food.

  • Do not touch sores. Do not poke or squeeze sores. This can make the infection go deeper into your tissue.

  • Cover infected sores with a bandage. Put an extra dressing on a sore that is draining. This helps keep drainage off surfaces that others can touch.

  • Do not play contact sports until your infection has healed. Bandages can come off during these sports and your infection may touch people and equipment. Also, do not use public gyms, pools, hot tubs, or saunas until your sores have healed. Do not get manicures, massages, or haircuts until the sores are healed. MRSA bacteria can stay on objects and surfaces for long periods of time.

  • Be careful when you are around people with weak immune systems. It will be easier for your infection to spread to them. This includes very young children, older adults, and people with chronic health conditions.

What do I need to know about MRSA in my home?

MRSA can stay on surfaces for weeks. It is important to keep others safe by doing the following:

  • Wear disposable gloves. Use disposable gloves while cleaning, changing your bandage, and handling dirty laundry. Throw away gloves after you use them. Put a new pair with each task. Never use the same pair of gloves.

  • Clean surfaces daily. Items that you use often should be cleaned daily, such as phones, doorknobs, and remote controls. Clean the shower or bathtub after each use.

  • Use a bleach-based cleaner. You can also create a cleaning solution by mixing 1 part bleach to 10 parts water.

  • Wash dishes and silverware in a dishwasher or in hot water. Do not share unwashed dishes or silverware with anyone.

  • Change your clothes daily. Do not put on clothes you have already worn, until they have been washed.

  • Hold dirty laundry away from your body and your clothes. Wear disposable gloves when you handle dirty laundry. Wash dirty laundry with warm or hot water. Use bleach when possible. Put dirty laundry in the washer immediately. Put it in a plastic bag if you are not able to wash it immediately. Remove gloves and wash your hands before you handle clean laundry. Dry laundry completely in a warm or hot dryer.

What do I need to know about MRSA and my pets?

Your dogs and cats can have a MRSA infection. They can also be carriers of MRSA infection. You may need to get your pet tested if you keep getting skin sores. Talk to your vet about testing your pet for MRSA bacteria. Keep children away from pets with sores until the sores heal. Do not touch your pet's sores without wearing disposable gloves. You do not have to get rid of your pet. He can be treated if he has MRSA infection.

When should I seek immediate care?

  • You develop new symptoms such as a cough or fever during or after treatment for MRSA infection.

  • Your symptoms get worse.

When should I contact my healthcare provider?

  • You have been exposed to MRSA.

  • Your symptoms do not get better within 2 days of treatment.

  • Your symptoms return after treatment.

  • You have questions and concerns about your condition or care.

Care Agreement

You have the right to help plan your care. Learn about your health condition and how it may be treated. Discuss treatment options with your caregivers to decide what care you want to receive. You always have the right to refuse treatment. The above information is an educational aid only. It is not intended as medical advice for individual conditions or treatments. Talk to your doctor, nurse or pharmacist before following any medical regimen to see if it is safe and effective for you.

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