Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus Questions and Answers

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What is MRSA?

 Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) refers to types of bacteria that are resistant to methicillin, an antibiotic. Staph and MRSA, formerly occurring only in hospital settings, now can cause illness in persons outside of hospitals or healthcare facilities (community-associated MRSA infections). They usually appear as skin infections, such as pimples or boils ("spider bite" appearance ) and can occur in otherwise healthy individuals. Some MRSA infections can be treated without antibiotics, but sometimes very serious infections occur when the infection enters the bloodstream or causes pneumonia and death can result.

Can I get MRSA from someone at work or school?

MRSA is transmitted most frequently by direct skin-to-skin contact or contact with shared items or surfaces that have come into contact with someone with MRSA. MRSA skin infections can occur anywhere, but some settings have characteristics that make it easier to transmit the infection:
  1. Crowded conditions, e.g., residence halls, classrooms, military barracks, correctional facilities, daycare centers, households
  2. Frequent skin-to-skin contact
  3. Compromised skin (cuts/scrapes) that provides a portal of entry for the bacteria into the body
  4. Contaminated items that have come into contact with MRSA bacteria, and
  5. Lack of cleanliness or good personal hygiene

Can I go to work or go to class if I have MRSA?

See your healthcare provider if you think you may have a staph infection and follow his/her directions regarding treatment and return to work or school.

How can I prevent the spread of MRSA at work or school if I have the infection?

To avoid spreading MRSA to others, follow the steps below:

  1. Cover the wound. Cover wounds that have pus or are draining with clean, dry bandages. The drainage from infected wounds can contain Staph and MRSA, so keeping the wound covered will help prevent the spread of infection to others.
  2. Wash your hands. Wash your hands often and thoroughly with soap and warm water or use an alcohol-based gel hand sanitizer, especially after changing the bandages or touching the affected area.
  3. Do not share personal items. Avoid sharing personal items such as clothing, towels, razors, sports equipment that may have had contact with the infected wound or bandages.
  4. Talk to your healthcare provider. Tell anyone who treats you that you have or had a Staph or MRSA skin infection.

What should I do if my clothing, personal protective equipment (PPE), or workstation becomes contaminated with MRSA?

  1. Wash your soiled clothing, towels and sheets with water and laundry detergent. Use the hottest water recommended on the fabric labels. Dry clothes in the dryer also using the highest temperature permitted on the fabric labels.
  2. Clean contaminated surfaces and equipment with detergent-based cleansers or Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) registered disinfectants effective at removing MRSA from the environment. Read the instructions on the label carefully and make sure that they are used safely and correctly. The EPA provides a list of EPA-registered products that have been shown to be effective against MRSA.

How does my workplace or the school prevent the spread of staph infections, including MRSA, in those settings?

  1. By putting importance on worker/student safety and health protection
  2. By ensuring the availability of adequate facilities and supplies that encourage good hygiene practices, e.g., hand washing facilities, personal protective equipment (PPE) such as gloves
  3. By ensuring that routine housekeeping cleaning procedures are followed in the workplace, classroom, and other settings
  4. By ensuring that contaminated equipment and surfaces are cleaned with detergent-based cleansers and/or EPA-registered disinfectants

Who gets Staph or MRSA infections?

In the United States, 25 to 30% of the population is colonized with Staph bacteria in the nose. Colonization means that the bacteria are present, but not causing an infection. Staph infections used to occur primarily in hospitals and other healthcare settings, such as nursing homes and dialysis centers in patients with weakened immune systems. They included surgical wound infections, urinary tract infections, blood stream infections, and pneumonia. Now as a result of 50-years of prescribing penicillin-related antibiotics for infections, the Staph bacteria have mutated and become resistant to common antibiotics, resulting in a new "super bug" that has moved quickly out into the community in recent years as the community-associated methicillin-resistant staphylococcus aureus infections (MRSA) that now occur in otherwise healthy individuals.

How common are Staph and MRSA infections?

Staph bacteria are one of the most common causes of skin infections in the United States, as well as of pneumonia, wound infections, and bloodstream infections.

What are the signs and symptoms of a Staph or MRSA infection?

Staph infections, including MRSA, may look like a pimple or a boil and can be red, swollen, warm to the touch, painful, and may have "pus" or other drainage. The infections are sometimes described as looking like a spider bite. They become more serious if they spread into the bloodstream, cause pneumonia, or infect a surgical wound.

Are Staph and MRSA infections treatable?

Many Staph infections may be treated by draining the boil or abscess and may not even require antibiotics. The procedure should be done by a healthcare professional. Some Staph and MRSA infections do require antibiotics. If given an antibiotic, it is very important to take all the doses, even if your symptoms subside, unless your healthcare provider advises you to stop them. Take the antibiotic only as prescribed. Do not share it with anyone else or save it to take another time. If your infection is not improving after a few days of treatment, contact your healthcare provider again. If anyone else you live or work with gets the infection, advise them to see their healthcare provider.

How can I avoid getting a Staph or MRSA infection?

Practice good personal hygiene:

  1. Wash your hands thoroughly with soap and water or used an alcohol-based hand sanitizer when soap and water are not readily available.
  2. Shower after physical activity. Bacteria thrive in warm, moist environments such as those created after physical activity.
  3. Cover cuts and scrapes with a bandage to keep them clean and dry until healed.
  4. Avoid contact with other people's wounds or bandages.
  5. Don't share personal items such as clothing or personal protective equipment.
  6. Properly clean equipment, tools, and gear.
  7. Wipe down gym equipment before and after it is used. Use an EPA-registered cleanser.

For Additional Information:

Contact CMU Health Services, 989-774-3944 or e-mail: healthservices@cmich.edu.

Disclaimer: This material is provided for informational purposes only. It does not constitute medical advice and is not intended to replace professional care. Please consult your health care provider with any questions or concerns you may have regarding your condition.

MRSA Information Sheet (pdf)
MRSA Notice from CMDHD(pdf)

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