What is MRSA?
MRSA, or methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus, is a bacterial infection that is resistant to certain antibiotics. Many people — 25% to 30% in the United States — have Staph (staphylococcal) bacteria on their skin and in their noses. These bacteria are generally harmless, but they sometimes cause infection through breaks in the skin. Staph skin infections may be treated by incision and drainage. If you develop a skin infection that doesn't heal normally, a doctor can test the bacteria to determine whether you have MRSA and prescribe antibiotics, if necessary. Click on the side bar to learn more about MRSA and how to prevent infection.
Who gets MRSA?
Anyone can get MRSA, but athletes, children, drug users and gay men can be more at risk, due to the types of physical contact they have with others. Older adults, and people in hospitals and those with diabetes or HIV are particularly vulnerable because their immune systems are often weakened. MRSA outbreaks can happen more easily when people live closely together in places like shelters or long-term care facilities.
How does MRSA spread?
MRSA can spread when an infected person's uncovered wound touches another person's skin. The infection can also spread if pus gets on shared objects or surfaces, such as towels, razors, bedding or clothings.
How can I tell if I have MRSA?
If a cut or wound is red, swollen, painful and pus-filled, this could be a sign of infection. See a doctor to find out what kind of infection you have.
Do I have to see a doctor?
If your cut or wound is not healing or getting worse, or if you develop a fever, you should see a doctor. An untreated infection can move to other parts of your body, such as your lungs, and become more serious, even fatal.
Can’t I just squeeze the infection out of my cut?
No, squeezing will not eliminate the bacteria, and it can cause the infection to spread.
Can I use some antibiotics I have at home instead of seeing a doctor?
No, only certain antibiotics will work on MRSA. And only a doctor can determine which treatment your infection requires.
How can I prevent a MRSA infection?
Wash your hands often. Use soap and water, and scrub for at least 20 seconds. If soap and water are not available, alcohol-based hand sanitizer may be used on hands that are not visibly dirty. Learn more about the Prevention of MRSA Skin Infections.