Hancock County Health System

What You Should Know About MRSA

What is MRSA?
MRSA stands for Methicillin Resistant Staphylococcus Aureus.
MRSA does not respond to antibiotics commonly used to treat Staphylococcus aureus (“staph”).

How does MRSA affect you?
People may become carriers of MRSA or they may become infected with the bacteria. A person may carry the bacteria in the nose, rectum, or on the skin without showing any symptoms of illness. This is called colonization and these individuals are called carriers of MRSA. Many kinds of bacteria can live in (colonize) your body without causing any problems.

However, some people may have MRSA infection. The infection can occur in any part of the body such as a wound, skin, (rash), bladder, bloodstream, lungs (pneumonia) and others. Signs of infection are the same as those of other infections (fever, wound redness or pus, painful urination, etc…) depending where in the body the infection is located.

Who is a risk for MRSA?
Healthy people are not usually at risk for MRSA infections. People with an increased risk include the elderly or very sick, people with an open wound, patients with a history of long term antibiotic therapy, or people with other chronic medical problems. People with a tube going into their body, such as a catheter are also at risk.

What testing is done to see if a person has the MRSA organism?
A culture would be done to see if you are colonized or infected with MRSA.

How did MRSA develop; can it be spread to others?
MRSA has developed over time from the continued use of antibiotics. Bacteria are ever changing, and have become resistant to some antibiotics. MRSA is spread from person to person by direct touch contact. If a person has MRSA on his skin (especially hands) and touches another individual, he may spread MRSA.

How will your hospital stay be different if you are infected with or carrying MRSA?
A facility may use special precautions called “contact precautions” during your stay. A sign will be placed on your door, which states that individuals entering your room will be required to wear gloves and gowns and wash their hands after removal.
Visitors will be instructed to follow the same precautions. They will also be instructed to wash their hands when leaving the room. Visitors should refrain from eating or drinking in the patient’s room.

How is MRSA treated?
Persons who are carriers of MRSA usually d not need treatment. Persons with MRSA infection are treated with an antibiotic. Treatment decisions are made by the patient’s physician.

How long will I have MRSA?
No one knows for sure. Some people can carry MRSA for a long time. When you come back to the hospital for admission or outpatient treatment, precautions will be taken by the health care staff until it is determined that you no longer have MRSA. Cultures will be taken from each site that was colonized or infected to make the determination. Policies differ in individual facilities and you may be recultured at future visits.

Dismissal from the hospital to a long term care facility.
Policies for admission and for contact precautions may vary in different facilities. The individual at HCMH who is assisting in your initial placement or return to a long term care facility will inform you of the policies at the facility.

Going home-

HANDWASHING is the most important think you can do to prevent the spread of ANY infection. Handwashing following use of the toilet, sneezing or blowing your nose, caring for a wound or rash, handling a wound dressing, or changing a diaper is important.

Follow these steps when:


  • Use an antibacterial soap and wash your hands well for 10-15 seconds.
  • First turn on the water, wet hands, apply soap, scrub all surfaces paying close attention to nails and nail beds. Hold hand downward when rinsing.
  • Dry hands with paper towel (not bath or hand towel). Do not share towels.
  • Turn off faucets with paper towel.


  • Do not share dishes and utensils.
  • Wash your hands before eating or preparing food.
  • Wash dishes in hot soapy water, or you can wash them in a dishwasher.

Cleaning your house

  • Clean household surfaces that may be contaminated with a household disinfectant or a bleach solution (1 part bleach to 10 parts water).
  • Bleach and water solutions need to be mixed fresh every day.

Waste disposal

  • Put all disposable wastes such as bandages and dressings into a plastic bag. Tie bag securely and place in the regular garbage.

Your routine for a daily living should be very much the same as before you were told you had MRSA. You may attend any of the regular functions you did prior to being positive for MRSA. Good handwashing, as listed above, will help prevent the spread of MRSA. Please tell your physician or health care agency when making appointments that you have MRSA.

Stricter precautions are taken by healthcare workers because they will be providing direct care to other sick patients.

Can I have visitors at home?
Yes. Visitors should wash their hands before they leave. The precautions visitors took when you were in the hospital were stricter because the hospital has so many sick and susceptible patients. Discourage visitors that have open wounds or who have weak immune systems. Visitors helping with your health care should follow the steps listed below:

Providing direct care

  • Wash your hands for at least 15 seconds after close contact with an individual with MRSA (see steps above).
  • Remember to wash hands after removing gloves, handling soiled items (dressings, clothing, bedding, and tissues). And after contact with blood or body fluids.
  • Wear gloves and a cover shirt (a long sleeve shirt put on backwards) if you are caring for infected wounds or carrying contaminated articles. The cover shirt should be removed after giving care.
  • Launder the cover shirt in hot water. Routine washing of clothing and linens will kill the MRSA bacteria.