What is Methicillin/
oxacillin resistant staphylococcus aureus, or MRSA?
(more commonly known as staph) is a bacterium that can be found on the
skin of many people. MRSA is a type of staph bacteria found on the skin
of many people.
What sets the MRSA
bacteria infections apart from other staph
bacteria infections is that MRSA bacteria are resistant to
certain antibiotics, making it harder to treat.
Where is MRSA found?
MRSA infections may
start as something that looks as innocent
as an insect bite or pimple. In the past, it’s been associated with
people who were hospitalized or in long-term care facilities, but now is
spreading among community groups like sports teams.
Certain groups are
more likely to get staph infections, including MRSA:
If you had
skin-to-skin contact with someone who has a staph infection
If you had
contact with items and surfaces that have staph on them, such as gym
equipment, or contaminated items, such as football shoulder pads
If you have
openings in your skin such as cuts or scrapes
If you reside in
crowded living conditions
If you have poor
What are the
In most cases, MRSA
appears as a skin infection, which looks similar to a spider bite. The
area is swollen, red, painful and filled with pus.
MRSA may also infect
surgical and nonsurgical wounds with the same symptoms.
How is MRSA spread?
MRSA infections used
to be contained to people who were hospitalized, in nursing homes or who
had weakened immune systems. Many times infections started because the
MRSA bacteria was already present on skin; the bacteria then entered the
body through a surgical incision or wound and infection began. This form
of MRSA is called health care-associated methicillin/ oxacillin
resistant staphylococcus aureus or HA-MRSA.
It is also becoming
more common to see MRSA in people who have not been in the hospital or
had a medical procedure during the previous year—they acquire the
bacteria in the community. This form of MRSA is called
community-associated methicillin/ oxacillin resistant staphylococcus
aureus or CA-MRSA. This is spread
through direct skin-to-skin contact with someone who has a staph
infection, or through contact with items and surfaces that have staph on
them, such as gym equipment, or contaminated items, such as football
community-associated MRSA infections have been reported in members of
sports teams, military recruits and in prisoners. The Centers for
Disease Control and Prevention estimates that 12 percent of MRSA
infections are community acquired.
How can I keep from
MRSA infection can
be prevented by:
and frequent hand washing
Keeping cuts and abrasions clean and covered until healed
Avoiding contact with other people’s wounds and bandages
Avoiding sharing personal items such as towels or razors
Placing a barrier, such as a towel or clothing, between your skin and
the surface of shared equipment before and after use.
If I’ve been exposed
to MRSA, how long will it take for symptoms to develop?
Some people may have
staph bacteria, including MRSA, on their skin and never get an
infection. For those people who do get an infection, the time from
exposure to development of disease can be from days to years.
A culture performed
by your health care provider is the only way to determine if you have
What treatments are
available for MRSA? How serious is the disease?
Treatment for a
staph skin infection, including MRSA, may include taking an antibiotic
or having a doctor drain the infection. If you are given an antibiotic,
be sure to take all of the doses, even if the infection is getting
better, unless your doctor tells you to stop taking it. Do not share
antibiotics with other people or save them to use later.
Most staph and MRSA
infections are treatable with antibiotics. If you think you have MRSA,
you should contact your health care provider. If untreated, MRSA can
lead to serious complications.
It is possible for
MRSA to reoccur in people who have had it previously.
How many cases of
MRSA have been reported in Kentucky?
Staph bacteria are
one of the most common causes of skin infection in the United States and
are a common cause of pneumonia, surgical wound infections, and
bloodstream infections. Since many people do not show symptoms of MRSA,
it is impossible to know how many people are carriers. At this time,
cases of MRSA requiring medical care are not required to be reported to
the Health Department.
Where can I get more
information on MRSA?
For more information
online, you can visit the Centers for Disease Control at
Or, for you can call
the Epidemiology Services of the Health Department at 859.363.2070.