Methacillin Resistant Staphylococcus aureus - MRSA
Methacillin Resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) has been increasingly reported throughout the country. Staphylococcus aureus, commonly referred to as "staph," are bacteria commonly carried on the skin or in the nose of healthy people. We would like to share some information regarding symptoms and prevention of MRSA.
- Approximately 25% to 30% of the population can carry staph bacteria on their skin and in their noses without causing infection (also known as colonization).
- Infections can start when staph bacteria get into a cut, scrape or other break in the skin. Staph bacteria are one of the most common causes of skin infections in the U.S.
- Most of these skin infections are minor (such as pimples and boils) and can be easily treated without antibiotics.
- Staph bacteria can also cause more serious infections, such as blood stream infections and pneumonia, which require more aggressive treatment.
- Some staph bacteria are resistant to antibiotics. MRSA is a type of staph that is resistant to a certain class of antibiotics. There are numerous other antibiotics to treat MRSA infection when necessary.
- Antibiotic resistance in general is related to inappropriate use of antibiotics such as over prescribing and failure to finish prescribed courses of antibiotics. Such inappropriate use favors the spread of antibiotic resistant organisms.
- Most people with MRSA on their skin or in their nose are unaware they are colonized, and never develop a MRSA infection.
- When MRSA enters a break in the skin, it can cause infections that may look like a pimple or boil and can be red, swollen, painful, or have pus or other drainage.
- More serious MRSA infections include pneumonia, blood stream infections, or severe skin or wound infections.
MRSA is transmitted most frequently by direct skin-to-skin contact.
MRSA can also be transmitted by:
- Contact with drainage from infected scrapes, cuts, or other skin wounds.
- Contact with personal items contaminated with drainage from infected scrapes, cuts, or other skin wounds. These items can include contaminated bandages, towels, washcloths, soap, razors, topical preparations (ointments, balms, lotions, deodorants, antibiotic creams), athletic or gym equipment, and uniforms or other clothing.
- Risk of transmission is low from environmental surfaces that are not contaminated by skin wounds or frequent direct skin contact.
Staph and MRSA infections can be prevented if students follow basic hygiene measures:
- Keep hands clean by washing thoroughly with soap (preferably not bar soap) and water or with an alcohol-based hand sanitizer if hands are not visibly soiled.
- Practice good skin care. Since staph infections start when staph enters the body through a break in the skin, keeping skin healthy and intact is an important preventive measure.
- Wash any cut or break in the skin with soap and water and apply a clean bandage until healed.
- Avoid contact with other people’s wounds or bandages.
- Avoid sharing personal items such as cloth towels, washcloths, soap, razors, topical preparations, uniforms, or clothing that may have had contact with an infected wound or bandage.
- Students with symptoms should contact the Health Center.
- Do not pick, scratch, or squeeze pimples or boils.
- Wash hands and forearms before and after caring for wounds and throughout the day. Wash for at least 20 seconds using soap (preferably not bar soap) and warm water and dry your hands on a clean paper towel.
- Keep wounds covered, as recommended by your healthcare provider. It is particularly important with those skin infections that produce pus. Carefully dispose of soiled dressings/bandages. Heavily soiled bandages or dressings should be placed in a plastic bag before discarding into the trash. If not heavily soiled, they may be placed directly into the trash.
- Refrain from sports or other activities that involve close contact if you cannot maintain adequate hygiene and keep wounds covered with clean, dry bandages during activity.
- Do not share personal items such as towels, washcloths, soap, razors, topical preparations, uniforms, or clothing that may have had contact with an infected wound or bandage.
- Wash towels, washcloths, uniforms or clothes that become soiled, with hot water and laundry detergent. Drying clothes in a hot dryer, rather than air-drying, also helps kill bacteria in clothes.
- Take all antibiotics as prescribed and for the full length of time prescribed.
- Report new skin sores or boils to a healthcare provider.
- Perform frequent hand washing with warm water and soap (preferably not bar soap), especially before and after touching or changing the dressing/bandage. Alcohol-based hand sanitizers may be used instead of soap and water, if hands are not visibly soiled. Whenever possible, dry hands with a paper towel and discard paper towel after use. If using clean disposable gloves to change a dressing/bandage, make sure that hands are washed before putting on and after taking off glove.
- Maintain a clean environment. Make sure to clean and disinfect surfaces and objects in the immediate environment and shared common areas that may have become contaminated with wound drainage or infected body fluids. Wipe surfaces with a commercial disinfectant that cover for Staph aureus, or a 1:100 solution of diluted bleach (1 tablespoon bleach in 1 quart water), and allow to air dry.
- Practice good personal hygiene including showering thoroughly each day and as soon as possible after physical activity, direct contact sports, or working out. Make sure to use a clean, dry towel.
- Not share personal care items (i.e., razors, towels, bar soap, and water bottles).
- Not share any topical preparations (i.e., ointments, balm, lotions, deodorants, antibiotic creams).
- Not shave body skin for cosmetic or wound care reasons, as shaving can create micro-abrasions that can permit entry of bacteria.
*Information from the CDC and NYSDOH