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August 2010 | 0 Comments | Print

Stop the spread of a staph infection

Methicillin resistant Staphylococcus aureus, or “MRSA,” is a strain of the germ Staphylococcus aureus (S. aureus) that causes staph infections. It has developed resistance to most of the antibiotics commonly used to treat staphylococcal infections. S. aureus is most often found on human skin and mucous membranes (often the nose). “Resistant” means that the germ, in this case S. aureus, has developed the means to fight off the effects of antibiotics that are usually used to kill them.

Identifying risk factors

Certain populations have a greater risk for developing MRSA, including persons with diabetes, those with immunocompromised states or having a prolonged hospitals stays. MRSA is not a threat to healthy persons. Very few antibiotics are effective against the MRSA germ. The most commonly used one is vancomycin.

MRSA spreads by person-to-person contact

Many germs/bacteria live in or on the body without causing disease or infection. This is called colonization. These same germs/bacteria under the right conditions can cause infection. A person with an MRSA infection may experience fever, redness or drainage. People with MRSA have the potential to transmit the germ to other people, even if they do not experience symptoms. A person who is infected can pass the germ whenever they touch others.

If MRSA infects someone who is already ill, it can compound the illness, especially if the person is hospitalized. It generally takes vancomycin, as well as more time in the hospital, to recover. Overall, infections caused by MRSA are no more serious than those caused by S. aureus, which are sensitive to methicillin; they just require treatment with different antibiotics.

Taking precautions

In the hospital setting, a person infected or colonized with MRSA will be placed in CONTACT isolation and in a private room. The isolation room is a regular patient room. An isolation sign will be placed outside to door to alert staff and visitors of the special precautions to be used. Healthcare workers will be asked to wear gowns and gloves when they enter the room to provide care. The gowns and gloves are worn to prevent the spread to other patients. All persons who enter the room, including visitors, should wash their hands and wear gowns and gloves, when having contact.

All visitors and family members should wash hands thoroughly before leaving the room and avoid visiting other patients during the same visit. Clothing can be taken home and laundered in the usual way.

Once MRSA is identified, it is not always easy to determine how long the infection will be present. Some people can carry MRSA for months or even years. When you enter a healthcare facility or clinic, let the staff know that you have had MRSA. A swab may be obtained from your nose and/or any open wounds to determine if you still have the disease. 


Home Care instructions

  1. Hand washing: The family and visitors should all wash hands at least 10-15 seconds after contact with the MRSA patient. Patients should also wash their hands frequently.
  2. Food preparation: MRSA patients who prepare food need to wash their hands before preparing food and eating. If there is not a dishwasher, wash the dishes with hot soapy water and allow them to air dry.
  3. Cleaning house: MRSA is easy to kill on surfaces as long as it has contact with a disinfectant cleaner for enough time. Wet the surfaces well with the cleaner and allow the disinfectant to air dry. This will allow the disinfectant to kill these germs.
  4. Laundry: Regular clothing may be washed with the rest of the family’s clothing as long as it is not contaminated with body fluids. If contaminated, wash the clothing separately in detergent and bleach.
  5. Waste management: Place any bandages, pads, etc., into plastic bags and make sure the bags are tightly secured. Then place into regular trash bags.
  6. Follow-up: All nurses, physicians and therapists need to be informed that someone is a carrier of MRSA. Always obtain all follow-up cultures, as recommended.
  7. Visitors: Those that may be immunocompromised (on chemotherapy, have AIDS, etc) and infants/young children should probably not visit during the hospitalization. Once the patient with MRSA has been treated and culture results are pending, or he/she is considered colonized, all visitors should be able to visit.

Learn more about how you can prevent infectious disease at

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