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MRSA Prevention

Updated on July 11, 2011

MRSA, or methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus, is a form of staph infection that is resistant to many common antibiotics, including methicillin, oxacillin, penicillin, and amoxicillin. For this reason, it is commonly known as the "MRSA superbug."

MRSA was discovered in 1961 and for most of its known history, it infected primarily hospital patients, nursing home residents, and others with weakened immune systems. This type of MRSA is known as Healthcare-Associated MRSA.

In recent years, however, the rate of MRSA has been rising in the general public. When MRSA affects otherwise healthy individuals who have not recently been hospitalized or undergone a medical procedure, it is known as Community-Associated MRSA, or ca-MRSA. One study found a 14-fold increase in rates of ca-MRSA among children in South Texas between 1999 and 2001. In 2007, the Center for Disease Control and Prevention reported that 14% of reported cases of MRSA were community-associated.

Today, MRSA kills more Americans every year than AIDS.


Signs and Symptoms

About 1% of the population is colonized by MRSA without even realizing it. Most of these people are not infected with MRSA, and may never become infected. MRSA is only dangerous if it gets into the body, through a cut or injury.

MRSA is spread through skin contact with a colonized or infected person. You can also catch it from objects that have the bacteria on them, such as clothing or towels.

The first symptoms of MRSA are typically small red bumps that resemble pimples or spider bites. These may quickly become painful abscesses or boils.

Most MRSA infections remain confined to the skin, but they can spread to the bloodstream, lungs, or urinary tract, where infections are much more serious. Common symptoms include fever, chills, severe headaches or joint pain, difficulty breathing, and rashes that cover most of the body. These life-threatening infections are most common among patients with weakened immune systems, but rates are rising in the general population, particularly among groups who share living space and/or come in frequent skin or clothing contact with others, such as prisoners, military recruits, and athletes.

More recently, concerns have risen about high rates of colonization and infection among farm workers who come into contact with pigs, who are also susceptible to the disease. A recent study found MRSA in 70% of swine and 64% of swine workers at one Iowa farm. A larger Canadian study found MRSA in about 25% of hogs and 20% of hog farmers. Although the connection is still uncertain, swine-carried MRSA has been linked with dangerous inflammation of the human heart. MRSA has also been documented in horses, cattle, dogs, and cats.

MRSA Facts and Fiction

MRSA Prevention

  • Wash your hands regularly. Wash your hands frequently with soap and hot water. Do NOT use antibacterial soaps in your daily life, unless directed to do so as part of workplace policy. Widespread use of antibacterial soaps speeds up the development of antibiotic resistant diseases such as MRSA.
  • Treat wounds correctly. Keep wounds clean, dry, and covered with clean bandages to discourage infection.
  • Don't share personal items, such as towels, clothing, and athletic equipment. Keeping personal items personal decreases the risk of spreading MRSA through contact with an infected object.
  • Shower immediately after athletic games and practices, with soap and hot water.
  • Wash clothes and linens regularly, especially if you experience any injuries or wounds. Wash athletic clothes after every use.
  • Use antibiotics responsibly. Inappropriate use of antibiotics and antibacterial soaps is one of the major causes of the spread of antibiotic resistant "superbugs" such as MRSA, and overusing antibiotics weakens your immune system and makes you more susceptible to catching a "superbug." Use plain soap and hot water when washing hands, avoid excessive use of antibiotic wipes, and always follow your doctor's instructions exactly when taking prescribed antibiotics. Never share or save prescription drugs, and don't bother to take them for colds. Colds are viruses and are not affected by antibiotics. Learn more at Keep Antibiotics Working.
  • Eat organic or pastured pork and other animal products. Another major cause of the spread of antibiotic resistant bacteria is the widespread practice of feeding antibiotics to livestock in their daily rations in order to keep them healthy and help them gain weight faster. In fact, an estimated 70% of all antibiotics used in the United States are given to healthy livestock. Overuse of antibiotics by pork producers is believed to the cause of high rates of MRSA colonization and infection among swine and farm workers who work with swine.
  • Handle raw meat properly. Although there is no reported case of a person contracting MRSA from pork products, MRSA has been found in raw meat in grocery stores. Cooking will kill the bacteria. However, it is extremely important to follow normal precautions when handling raw meat of all types. In particular, wash hands, utensils, and surfaces that have been in contact with raw meat carefully and frequently with warm, soapy water to prevent cross-contamination of other foods.


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    • profile image

      Debbie 7 years ago

      I had a little piss ant bite looking thingee on my left hip. I started smashing it and it turned into MRSA or it was already MRSA. Stayed 10 days in the hospital on IV drugs. That was in August 2007 then in March 2008 I was diagnosed with Fibromayglia and RA. Now, I think 2011 I've given it to my dog. Can this be possible? From what I'm reading it can be.

    • anitariley65 profile image

      anitariley65 8 years ago from Little Town Ohio

      I contracted MRSA in 2005. I was receiving mo.cortisone shots in my knees, and in just a few days, my right knee began bothering me. The knee cap felt very loose and I had a lot of pain. The Dr. (knowing that knee had been dislocated a few times) ordered me a knee brace. The same day I received the brace and had it on, I was in even more pain. That evening when I took the brace off, there was a huge pocket of fluid above my knee (from where the little whole is for your knee). It immediately dropped into the knee and I was down. Straight to the ER. They drew out fluid to be tested and put me on antibiotics and pain killers. The next day my PCP called me to get straight to the hospital. I was in isolation for forever. I had to have a central line put into my chest. I had to have 2 ortho. surgeries done on that knee in 5 days. When I was able to go home, I was very weak, and fell and tore the rotator cuff in my shoulder, so back to the hospital I went. I spent another 4 1/2 weeks in there. It had gotten into my blood stream, and to my heart and lungs fast. 3 types of strong antibiotics, and heavy pain med. evry 2 hrs. got me through it.

      So, it's not just on your skin, and in your nose, and not always in the form of blisters. It can get in and invade any part of your body, with no notice.

      Great hub. Keep up the good work.


    • HWP profile image

      HWP 8 years ago from my own world

      Another great way of warding off MRSA is tea tree oil. I use it for practically everything, it is my cure all, and has been proven to be effective against MRSA. It fights off pretty much any nasties and helps heal wounds amazingly quickly.

    • maanju profile image

      maanju 9 years ago from India

      Your article provide more information. Its really a good hub.

    • packerpack profile image

      Om Prakash Singh 9 years ago from India, Calcutta

      Thanks for the Hub. It is really important to have such Hubs around that teaches us about such problem and how to avoid and cure them. Thanks again!

    • hot dorkage profile image

      hot dorkage 9 years ago from Oregon, USA

      I was worried about this because I was recently hospitalized for surgery, a particularly risky type of surgery where germs are concerned. I've been out of hosp a week. Other than the incision (which I am really pissed off about) I feel fine. My dad had MRSA 15 or so years ago after a relatively minor procedure to remove some squamous cell carcinoma from his hands. The infection was way way way worse than the procedure. How long does it take to set in?

    • Ralph Deeds profile image

      Ralph Deeds 9 years ago from Birmingham, Michigan

      Nice job on an important subject. This is a popular topic. My MRSA hub produces the second highest number of page views of all my hubs.

    • Netters profile image

      Netters 9 years ago from Land of Enchantment - NM

      I had MRSA about 18 years ago after being hospitalized for pneumonia. They found it in my lungs. It was awful. They sent me home on IV therapy where I had to give myself a bag of intravenous antibiotics for a week. Since the antibiotics are hard on your veins, a nurse came out every other day to change my IV site. Once they put it high up on my arm, near my shoulder because they couldn't find anymore good veins to use. Please, wash your hands, wash your hands, wash your hands. Great hub!