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MRSA (Methicillin/ oxacillin resistant staphylococcus aureus)

What is Methicillin/ oxacillin resistant staphylococcus aureus, or MRSA?
Where is MRSA found?
What are the symptoms MRSA?
How is MRSA spread?
How can I keep from getting MRSA?
If I’ve been exposed to MRSA, how long will it take for symptoms to develop?
What treatments are available for MRSA? How serious is the disease?
How many cases of MRSA have been reported in Kentucky?
Where can I get more information on MRSA?

What is Methicillin/ oxacillin resistant staphylococcus aureus, or MRSA?
Staphylococcus aureus (more commonly known as staph) is a bacterium that can be found on the skin of many people. MRSA is a type of staph bacteria found on the skin of many people.

What sets the MRSA bacteria infections apart from other staph bacteria infections is that MRSA bacteria are resistant to certain antibiotics, making it harder to treat.

Where is MRSA found?
MRSA infections may start as something that looks as innocent as an insect bite or pimple. In the past, it’s been associated with people who were hospitalized or in long-term care facilities, but now is spreading among community groups like sports teams.

Certain groups are more likely to get staph infections, including MRSA:

What are the symptoms MRSA?A person infected with MRSA, courtesy of Public Health Image Library

Some people may have MRSA on their skin but will not be ill.
Other people may have a skin infection which resembles a spider bite or a small pimple. This area can be swollen, reddened, painful and filled with pus

How is MRSA spread?

Many times this infection occurs because the bacteria are on the skin and enter the body through a cut, scrape or wound. It may be spread to others by direct skin-to-skin contact with an infected person, or through contact with surfaces, equipment or toys which have come in contact with the drainage from an infected wound or from secretions from the nose of an infected person.

MRSA infections used to be contained to people who were hospitalized, in nursing homes or who had weakened immune systems. Many times infections started because the MRSA bacteria was already present on skin; the bacteria then entered the body through a surgical incision or wound and infection began. This form of MRSA is called health care-associated methicillin/ oxacillin resistant staphylococcus aureus or HA-MRSA.

It is also becoming more common to see MRSA in people who have not been in the hospital or had a medical procedure during the previous year—they acquire the bacteria in the community. This form of MRSA is called community-associated methicillin/ oxacillin resistant staphylococcus aureus or CA-MRSA. This is spread through direct skin-to-skin contact with someone who has a staph infection, or through contact with items and surfaces that have staph on them, such as gym equipment, or contaminated items, such as football shoulder pads

Clusters of community-associated MRSA infections have been reported in members of sports teams, military recruits and in prisoners. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that 12 percent of MRSA infections are community acquired.

How can I keep from getting MRSA?

If I’ve been exposed to MRSA, how long will it take for symptoms to develop?
Some people may have staph bacteria, including MRSA, on their skin and never get an infection. For those people who do get an infection, the time from exposure to development of disease can be from days to years.

A culture performed by your health care provider is the only way to determine if you have MRSA.

What treatments are available for MRSA? How serious is the disease?
Treatment for a staph skin infection, including MRSA, may include taking an antibiotic or having a doctor drain the infection. If you are given an antibiotic, be sure to take all of the doses, even if the infection is getting better, unless your doctor tells you to stop taking it. Do not share antibiotics with other people or save them to use later.

If you think you have MRSA, you should contact your health care provider. If untreated, MRSA can lead to serious complications.

It is possible for MRSA to reoccur in people who have had it previously.

How many cases of MRSA have been reported in Kentucky?
Staph bacteria are one of the most common causes of skin infection in the United States and are a common cause of pneumonia, surgical wound infections, and bloodstream infections. Since many people do not show symptoms of MRSA, it is impossible to know how many people are carriers. At this time, cases of MRSA requiring medical care are not required to be reported to the Health Department.

Where can I get more information on MRSA?
For more information online, you can visit the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention or call the Health Department at 859.363.2070.

Sources: Northern Kentucky Health Department, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention