MRSA [MUR-suh] is a type of staph infection caused by the Staphylococcus [staf-uh-luh-KOK-uhs] aureus [AWR-ee-uhs] germ (commonly called “staph”). About 1 in 3 people have staph germs on their skin or in their nose, and normally they don’t cause problems. But sometimes, these germs cause serious infections (called “staph infections”) on the skin, in a wound, or in the blood. They can also cause pneumonia.
Antibiotics are usually used to treat staph infections, however, sometimes these medicines don’t kill the germs. MRSA (methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus) is a kind of staph that is resistant to often-used antibiotics.
MRSA germs can affect you in 2 ways:
- Active infection. This means that the germs are multiplying and causing an illness or a skin sore. A skin sore may look like a red bump or a cluster of bumps.
- Colonization. This means the germs are on your skin or in your nose, but not causing any symptoms or active infection.
Treatment involves taking antibiotics that kill MRSA germs. For some patients, surgery may be needed to drain the infection. Your doctor can help you figure out the best option for your case.
Symptoms of MRSA often appear as a bump or infected-looking area on the skin that:
- Causes pain
- Looks red
- Feels warm when you touch it
- Is swollen or filled with pus
You might also have more general symptoms, like a fever or chills.
MRSA is more common in hospitals because the germs that cause the illness can spread from person to person on the hands of healthcare providers or visitors. It can also spread by touching contaminated objects such as bed linens, bed rails, bathroom fixtures, and medical equipment. When the germs get into your body, they can multiply and cause the symptoms listed above.
People in the hospital are more likely to get MRSA and are those who have:
- Other health conditions which are making them sick
- Long or repeated stays in a hospital or nursing home
- Taking multiple antibiotics for longer periods of time
Healthy individuals who have not been hospitalized or in a nursing home can also get MRSA, usually on the skin. This type of infection is called “community-associated MRSA.”
As MRSA is usually spread through contact with the skin, it is often linked to poor hand-washing habits, although this is not always the cause of getting MRSA.
There are specific antibiotics that can kill MRSA. Usually, this is enough to cure the disease, but some patients with MRSA infections may need surgery to drain the sores that are caused by the illness. Your healthcare providers will decide which treatments are best for you.
If you have MRSA, make sure to:
- Take all of your medications for MRSA exactly as prescribed by your doctor. Don’t take half doses, and don’t stop before you complete your prescribed treatment, even if you start to feel better.
- Keep any wounds clean, and change bandages as instructed until they’re healed.
- Wash your hands often, especially before and after changing your wound dressing or bandage.
- Have the people that live with you or interact with you wash their hands often (especially before and after interaction with you).
- Not share personal items such as towels or razors.
- Wash and dry your clothes in the warmest temperatures recommended on the labels.
- Tell all of your healthcare providers that you have MRSA.
- Follow any other instructions that your doctor gives you.