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What is Staphylococcus aureus?
Staphylococcus aureus, often referred to simply as "staph," is a kind of bacteria commonly found on the skin and in the nose of healthy people.
Sometimes, staph can get into the body and cause an infection. These infections can be minor (such skin infections), or more serious, even life-threatening (such as bloodstream infections or pneumonia). Staph has been causing infections for many years but recent changes in this organism have caused growing concern.
What is MRSA?
MRSA is Methicillin Resistant Staphylococcus aureus. Many bacteria, including Staph, have developed strains that are now resistant to the antibiotics that healthcare providers use to treat infections. MRSA is a type of Staph that is resistant to many antibiotics. This means clinicians have fewer choices of medications that can affectively treat an infection caused by MRSA.
MRSA was first identified in the 1960s and was mainly seen among patients in hospitals and nursing homes. In the late 1990s however, a new type of MRSA was identified. This "community acquired" MRSA is different from the hospital strain. This type of MRSA is being seen more often in children and adults who have never been sick before.
Having MRSA on your skin or in you nose does not always lead to infection. When you have the MRSA germ and do not have an infection, you are considered "colonized." In other words, you carry the organism, are not sick yourself, but could potentially pass it on to others. Some studies estimate that as many as 1 in 5 people are MRSA carriers. Some groups of people may be at higher risk of developing a MRSA infection.
Those with the following medical conditions are at risk:
Other people in certain settings are also at increased risk:
But remember. . .people with no obvious risk factors can still get infections caused by community-acquired MRSA.
How is MRSA identified?
Laboratory tests are used to identify MRSA. Tests can be done using a blood or urine sample, or a swab from a wound or other body site.
Even if you don't have an active MRSA infection you may be tested to see if you carry MRSA. This is called 'screening for MRSA' and might be done on admission to the hospital or prior to having a medical procedure, like surgery. The screening usually involves swabbing your nose. The lab will check the swab for MRSA.
How is MRSA treated?
If you suspect you might have MRSA, consult a healthcare professional. It is important to follow any instructions your healthcare provider gives you. Make sure you complete any medication that is prescribed. Also, be sure to cover, and care for any wounds following the instructions given by your clinician.
If you have an active MRSA infection, your doctor may choose one or more of the following treatments:
Will I always have MRSA?
Many people can be treated effectively and infections will heal. However, sometimes MRSA goes away after treatment but then comes back again. You may also remain colonized in your nose even after completing antibiotic treatment. Your healthcare provider can help you identify the reasons this may be happening.
Contact your doctor if you are being treated for a MRSA infection and:
What are we doing to prevent the spread of MRSA at The Chester County Hospital?
To help prevent the spread of this organism, patients with MRSA are placed in a private room, or with another patient who also has MRSA. A sign is posted outside of the room, to alert staff and visitors of the need for special precautions. This is called "Contact Isolation."
The Hospital provides special supplies, including yellow cover gowns and gloves near the room for the use of all staff and visitors.
Hospital staff must also wear the same attire to prevent the spread of MRSA. Please remind staff to wear a gown and gloves, and feel free to ask healthcare providers whether they have washed their hands before they take care of you.
What can you do at home to reduce the chance of spreading MRSA?
You can prevent spreading MRSA infections to others by following these steps:
*Remember to keep bleach solutions and other cleaning liquids out of the reach of children. Don't put them in bottles that could be mistaken for something to drink.
Things to remember if you have MRSA:
Remember that frequent hand washing is the best way to prevent spreading any infection.
This information was adapted from several sources including:
"Living with MRSA" produced by the Washington State Dept. of Health
"Learning about MRSA" created by the Minnesota Dept. of Health
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Last Updated: 7/20/2009