What is MRSA?
Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) is a bacterium that can live in the nose, on the skin, or in the lower intestine. MRSA is a form of Staphylococcus aureus that is resistant to the usual antibiotics used to treat it.
Some people carry, or become colonized with Staphylococcus aureus bacteria but do not have an infection. However, sometimes Staphylococcus aureus causes infections, which means that the bacterium is making them sick.
If MRSA causes an infection, then stronger antibiotics must be used to treat it. Hospitalized patients who already have weakened immune systems or who have open wounds, catheters or other invasive devices are more susceptible to an infection with MRSA.
How is it transmitted?
MRSA can live on the skin or in the nose without causing any signs or symptoms of an infection. These bacteria usually do not harm the person; however, they can be transferred to a susceptible person and cause an infection. Hospitalized patients who are already in a weakened condition or who have a surgical incision or open wound are more susceptible to an infection with MRSA.
How to we treat MRSA?
MRSA colonization can be successfully treated with antibiotics, an antibiotic ointment to the nose and an antibacterial soap.
What do we do to control MRSA?
Patients who are identified as having MRSA are placed in isolation precautions and treated with antibiotics to help eradicate the bacteria. Gowns and gloves are worn to prevent contact spread of the bacterium. Masks are worn so that health care workers etc. do not become colonized in the nose by touching it with contaminated gloves.
What about MRSA at home?
MRSA is not a problem in the home environment because it poses little threat to healthy people. However, if a patient is on Home Care, these nurses must take special precautions because they look after many sick patients. Good hand washing is the key to decrease the risk of spread.
If the patient returns to hospital, it is important to let the doctor or nurse know that he/she had MRSA so that the patient's status can be re-evaluated.