Skip to Content

Mrsa (methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus Aureus)


What is MRSA?

MRSA (methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus) is a strain of staph bacteria that can cause infection. Usually, antibiotics are used to kill bacteria. MRSA bacteria are resistant to the common antibiotics used to treat Staph infections. This makes MRSA hard to treat. MRSA most commonly causes a skin or soft tissue infection. Bacteria may get into your skin or soft tissue through a cut, sore, or incision. MRSA may spread to your blood, lungs, heart, and bone.

What increases my risk for MRSA?

  • 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, razors, 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, stopping antibiotics, 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 on your skin that are red and painful
  • A cut or incision that is red, swollen, and filled with pus
  • Fluid-filled blisters
  • Fever

How is MRSA diagnosed?

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

  • A wound culture may show MRSA bacteria. Your healthcare provider will swab your wound. He will send the swab to the to be tested. He may need to make an incision and drain your wound or abscess to get a sample.
  • Blood and urine tests may show if MRSA bacteria are inside of your body.

How is MRSA treated?

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

  • Antibiotics may help treat the bacterial infection. Take all of your antibiotics until they are finished.
  • Incision and drainage of a wound, a sore or an abscess may be needed. A provider will open and drain infected fluid and pus. This helps remove bacteria from your wound so it can heal.

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.
  • Wear disposable gloves when you clean and change your bandage. Throw away gloves after you use them. Put a new pair with each task. Never use the same pair of gloves.
  • 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 bandage on a sore that is draining fluid. This helps keep infected 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 can spread to people or 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:

  • 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.
  • Wash used sheets, towels, and clothes with water and laundry detergent. Put dirty laundry in the washer immediately. Put it in a plastic bag if you are not able to wash it immediately. Use warm or hot water to wash laundry. Use bleach when possible. Wash your hands after you touch dirty laundry and before you handle clean laundry. Dry laundry completely in a warm or hot dryer.
  • Talk to your vet about testing your pet for MRSA bacteria. 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. Do not touch your pet's sores. Keep children away from pets with sores until the sores heal. Put on disposable gloves if you need to touch your pet's sores. 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?

  • 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.

© 2016 Truven Health Analytics Inc. Information is for End User's use only and may not be sold, redistributed or otherwise used for commercial purposes. All illustrations and images included in CareNotes® are the copyrighted property of A.D.A.M., Inc. or Truven Health Analytics.

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.