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healthcare-associated infections (hai) program 

MRSA: Methicillin-Resistant Staphylococcus aureus

What is Staphylococcus aureus?

Staphylococcus aureus, often referred to simply as "staph," are bacteria commonly carried on the skin or in the nose of healthy people.  Approximately 25% to 30% of people in general are colonized (when bacteria are present, but not causing an infection) in the nose with staph bacteria. 

What is colonization?

When a person carries the organism/bacteria but shows no clinical signs or symptoms of infection. For Staph aureus the most common body site colonized is the nose.

What is infection?

When there are signs (such as fever, redness, swelling, discharge, heat at a location of an infection) or symptoms (feeling feverish, chills, pain, aches, weakness, malaise - not feeling well, nausea, vomiting) of infection in addition to laboratory evidence of infection, including a positive culture. 

What is MRSA (methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus)?

Some staph bacteria are resistant to antibiotics.  MRSA is a type of staph that is resistant to a class of antibiotics related to penicillin, which includes methicillin, oxacillin, penicillin and amoxicillin.  Approximately of 1% of people in general are colonized with MRSA, while people receiving certain types of healthcare, such as those receiving dialysis or living in nursing homes, are at increased risk of being colonized with MRSA. 

How do I know if I have MRSA?

Your doctor may take a sample from your infected skin, nose, blood, urine or saliva and send it to the lab. This test sample is called a “culture”.  If the lab finds MRSA in the test sample, the test is positive; this means that you have MRSA in or on your body.  If you have a positive test but no signs or symptoms of an infection, you are probably colonized (carrying) MRSA but not infected. 

What is an MRSA bloodstream infection (BSI)?

An MRSA BSI is when a patient has a positive test for MRSA in the blood along with evidence of an infection, such as a fever.  MRSA BSIs are often secondary infections; that is, the result of an MRSA infection in another place, such as the lungs (pneumonia) or a wound. 

What MRSA information is reported to the California Department of Public Health and where can I find that information?

All California general acute care hospitals are required to report MRSA bloodstream infection (BSI) cases that occur following hospitalization so that CDPH can calculate the rates of MRSA BSI at each hospital and make that information available to the public (Health and Safety Code Section 1288.55).  The latest California hospitals MRSA BSI report is available at the Annual HAI Report Page . Comparison of the rates of MRSA BSI in different hospitals in this report should be avoided because differences may be due to variations in surveillance practices and/or laboratory testing methodology. ​​

Who is at risk of getting a MRSA infection?

  • Patients in Healthcare Settings. People who are more likely to get an MRSA infection are people who: 1) have other health conditions making them sick; 2) have been in the hospital or a nursing home; 3) have been treated with antibiotics. Hospital patients with catheters, including central lines, are at increased risk of getting an infection.
  • People who are healthy and who have not been in the hospital or a nursing home can also get MRSA infections. These infections usually involve the skin.

Is MRSA present in my community?

MRSA in the community is widespread and therefore, anyone is at risk. Most people who get MRSA in the community get infections of the skin. Factors that have been associated with the spread of MRSA skin infections include:
  • close skin-to-skin contact
  • openings in the skin such as cuts or abrasions
  • contaminated items and surfaces
  • crowded living conditions
  • poor hygiene
  • People may be more at risk in locations where these factors are common, including: 1) athletic facilities; 2) dormitories; 3) schools and daycare settings; 4) military barracks and 5) prisons.

What should I know about visiting a patient who has MRSA?

Visitors should follow the facility’s visitor policies.  Casual contact—such as kissing, hugging, and touching—is usually okay.  Visitors should avoid touching catheters or wound sites and should wash their hands upon entering and before leaving an infected person's room.

How can patients and their advocates can help prevent infections?

Team up with your medical providers to prevent MRSA infections

  • Ask your provider if she/he washed their hands with soap and water or an alcohol-based hand rub before and after caring for you
  • Ask your provider if any medical equipment was cleaned and disinfected before it was brought into your room
  • If you do not see your providers clean their hands, please ask them to do so

Can my friends and family get MRSA when they visit me?

The chance of getting MRSA while visiting a person who has MRSA is very low. To decrease the chance of getting MRSA your family and friends should:

  • Clean their hands before they enter your room and when they leave.
  • Ask a healthcare provider if they need to wear protective gowns and gloves when they visit you.

What do I need to do when I go home from the hospital after having MRSA?

To prevent another MRSA infection and to prevent spreading MRSA to others:

  • Keep taking any antibiotics prescribed by your doctor. Don’t take half-doses or stop before you complete your prescribed course.
  • Clean your hands often, especially before and after changing your wound dressing or bandage.
  • People who live with you should clean their hands often as well.
  • Keep any wounds clean and change bandages as instructed until healed.
  • Avoid sharing personal items such as towels or razors.
  • Wash and dry your clothes and bed linens in the warmest temperatures recommended on the labels.
  • Tell your healthcare providers that you have MRSA. This includes home health nurses and aides, therapists, and personnel in doctors’ offices.
  • Your doctor may have more instructions for you.



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