What is MRSA?
MRSA stands for Methicillin-Resistant Staphylococcus Aureus, and this is an infection that is caused by a type of staph bacteria.
Around 30% of people carry MRSA on their skin or in their nose without knowing and this is completely harmless to us unless it enters the body. This is called ‘colonisation’.
How can you catch it?
MRSA is mainly spread through direct skin to skin contact however, it can be spread through dusty and dirty equipment and surroundings. If someone who is colonised with MRSA touches the skin of a person who is not colonised or they handle personal items such as towels, bandages or razors, this can transfer the bacteria over to the other person. MRSA can also be spread through contaminated surfaces.
What are the symptoms?
If the MRSA bacteria is on your skin, then you normally would not have any symptoms of this. However, if the MRSA infection gets under your skin, then you may have an area of the skin that is:
- Painful and swollen
- Warm to touch
- Leaking pus or liquid
- Appears red
The infection can then spread to your blood and lungs or another part of the body, therefore you may experience symptoms such as:
- Difficulty breathing
- High temperature
How is it diagnosed?
If someone is due to have surgery, they may be offered a screening test for MRSA before having the surgery.
- The inside of your nostril
- The back of your mouth
- Your armpit
- Your groin
These swabs are then sent for testing.
If the results show you have MRSA on your skin, you will be given a nasal cream or spray, body wash and shampoo that will need to be used for approx. 5-10 days.
Who is at risk?
People that are healthy and do not attend hospital are normally not infected by MRSA however it is still a possibility.
People that are staying in hospital have the potential to become infected by MRSA and they may have an entry point for the bacteria to get into their body such as a surgical wound or a catheter.
This is why patients are swabbed prior to surgery so that they can be treated to decrease the risk of becoming infected by MRSA.
Other individuals that are at most at risk of MRSA include:
- Those with a weakened immune system (elderly, newborn babies, those with long term health conditions such as diabetes).
- Have an open wound.
- Have a catheter.
- Have a burn or laceration on the skin.
- Have a severe skin condition such as a leg ulcer or psoriasis.
- Have had recent surgery.
- Have to take frequent courses of antibiotics.
How can it be treated?
MRSA is resistant to many different types of antibiotics due to its changing form, so it can be difficult to treat.
Antibiotics that MRSA is not resistant to can be used for mild MRSA infections.
If you have a more serious infection, this may need to be treated in hospital with IV antibiotics.
what can be done to prevent spread?
To prevent the spread of MRSA there are a number of steps you can take to ensure that you have a reduced chance of becoming infected:
- Good hand hygiene – clean your hands often.
- Good personal hygiene – cleaning your body often, especially after exercise.
- Keep cuts, scrapes and wounds clean and covered until healed.
- If someone you live with has MRSA, do not share clothes or towels with them and ensure that all surfaces they may come into contact with are cleaned and disinfected.