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MRSA infections facts

  • Staphylococcus aureus (Staph aureus, S. aureus, or SA) is a common bacteria (a type of germ) in the nose and on the skin of people and animals.
  • MRSA means "methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus." It is a specific "staph" bacteria (a type of germ) that is often resistant to (is not killed by) several types of antibiotic treatments. Most S. aureus is methicillin-susceptible (killed by methicillin and most other common treatments).
  • In general, healthy people with no cuts, abrasions, or breaks on their skin are at low risk for getting infected.
  • About one out of every three people (33%) are estimated to carry staph in their nose, usually without any illness. About two in 100 (2%) carry MRSA. Both adults and children may have MRSA.
  • Like common S. aureus (SA), MRSA may cause deep (invasive) or life-threatening infections in some people. Because it is resistant to commonly used antibiotics, it can be harder to treat or become worse if the right treatment is delayed. MRSA is one of the bacteria listed by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) as a "superbug" resistant to multiple antibiotics.
  • MRSA skin infections can be picked up either in the general community (community-associated MRSA or CA-MRSA infection) or in health care facilities (health care-acquired or HA-MRSA). In the hospital, MRSA can cause wound infections after surgery, pneumonia (lung infection), or infections of catheters inserted into veins. Invasive MRSA infections include soft tissue infections, heart valve infections, bone infections, abscesses in organs, joint infections, or bloodstream infection (sepsis, "blood poisoning").
  • Because HA-MRSA can be life-threatening, the National Healthcare Safety Network (NHSN) and Emerging Infections Program (EIP) of the CDC monitor hospital MRSA rates. The CDC also advises hospitals and health professionals about preventing and lowering MRSA infection rates.
  • Rates of MRSA bloodstream infections in hospitalized patients fell nearly 50% from 1997-2007 since hospitals began using prevention measures. MRSA is transmitted from person to person by direct contact with the skin, inhaling droplets from coughing, or items touched by someone who has MRSA (for example, sink, bench, bed, and utensils). People can be carriers of MRSA even if they don't have an infection. This is called colonization. A common place for MRSA colonization with MRSA is inside the nose.
  • One way to keep visitors and health-care staff from carrying MRSA from one patient to others is to follow CDC-guided precautions by wearing disposable gloves and gowns (and sometimes masks) when visiting hospitalized people who have MRSA. A sign at the door provides instructions that should be carefully followed.
Reviewed on 6/30/2017

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