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Department of Health News 

This news item expired on 1/31/2009, so the information below could be outdated or incorrect.

Focus on Health: MRSA

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What is MRSA (Methicillin Resistant Staphylococcus aureus)?

Staph (Staphylococcus aureus) is a common germ that many people carry. It can be found in the nose, under fingernails or on the skin of healthy people. MRSA is a type of staph germ that is hard to treat with some commonly used antibiotics. However, most MRSA infections can be treated with other types of antibiotics.

What are the symptoms?

MRSA usually begins with a small, painful bump that looks like a pimple or insect bite. The sore may be:

  • red
  • swollen
  • painful
  • warm to the touch
  • full of pus or other drainage
  • accompanied by fever

Some infections can become more serious and cause pneumonia or other hard to treat infections.

People with symptoms of MRSA should see a doctor. Be sure to follow the doctor’s orders and complete any prescribed antibiotics.

How is MRSA spread?

MRSA is usually spread through direct physical contact with someone who has it. Sometimes is it passed by touching objects such as bandages, towels, sports equipment or clothing that may have the germ.

Outbreaks of MRSA may occur in places where people have close contact with one another such as gyms, daycare centers and during sports activities.

How can I prevent staph or MRSA infections?

  • Know the signs of MRSA skin infections and get treated early.
  • Keep cuts and scrapes clean and covered until they are healed.
  • Keep your hands clean by washing regularly with soap and water or using an alcohol hand gel.
  • Avoid touching other people's wounds or bandages.
  • Avoid sharing personal items such as razors, towels and sports equipment that directly touches your body.

Because bacteria develop resistance to antibiotics when they are used often, they should be used only when your doctor recommends them. Follow your health care provider’s instructions carefully and take the full dose they recommend.

For more information visit the Center for Disease Control website.