Get the Facts - MRSA 101

MRSA (methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus) is a type of Staph bacteria found on the skin and in the nose that is resistant to antibiotics. More than 90,000 Americans get potentially deadly MRSA infections every year and in 2005, nearly 19,000 Americans died from MRSA infections. More deaths are linked to MRSA infections than AIDS.

There are two known types of MRSA. You may have heard of Healthcare-Associated (HA-MRSA), which occurs in hospitals and nursing homes, but a newer type of MRSA is Community-Associated (CA-MRSA), which has recently begun to spread in public settings like gyms, locker rooms, households and schools.

People can carry MRSA and not have any symptoms. These "carriers" can also transmit the bacteria to other people. MRSA can be easily spread through skin-to-skin contact and by touching contaminated items. This is why it is crucial to take measures to help reduce the spread of MRSA using these practical steps.

  • Scrub up - Wash your hands frequently with soap and warm water for at least 15 seconds - the time it takes to sing Happy Birthday twice - or use an alcohol-based hand rub sanitizer.
  • Wipe it down - Use a disinfecting bleach solution to wipe down and disinfect hard surfaces. Make sure to use clean cloths to avoid spreading MRSA from one surface to another. (3/4 cup of disinfecting bleach diluted in 1 gallon of water)
  • Cover your cuts - Keep any nicks or wounds covered with a clean, dry bandage until healed.
  • Keep to yourself - Do not share personal items, like towels or razors, that come into contact with bare skin.
  • Use a barrier - Keep a towel or clothing between skin and shared equipment.

MRSA, like other staph bacteria, can cause a skin infection such as pimples, rashes, abscesses, boils or what can look like a spider bite. These infections are usually warm, painful, red or swollen.

If you think that you or anyone in your family may have a MRSA infection, contact a licensed health care professional, especially if the infection is large, painful, warm to the touch, or does not heal by itself.

For more information on MRSA and steps you can take to help reduce the spread of the bacteria, download our STOP MRSA Now Playbook or a fact sheet.

This content is not intended as a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.

Visit The University of Chicago MRSA Research Center Web site for additional resources:
http://mrsa-research-center.bsd.uchicago.edu/.

GLOSSARY

MRSA — stands for methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus, which is a type of Staph bacteria that is resistant to antibiotics.

Staph — a type of bacteria commonly found on the skin and in the nose. In most cases Staph lives in these areas of the body and does not cause infections. However, for unclear reasons, a small percentage of people develop Staph infections.

Carrier — a person who carries Staph or MRSA bacteria but do not have any symptoms. They can also transmit the bacteria to other people.

Antibiotic — a drug that fights infections caused by bacteria.

Antibiotic resistance — the ability of bacteria to resist the effects of an antibiotic.