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Staph Infections and Methicillin-Resistant Staphylococcus aureus

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Prevention and Treatment

Healthcare-associated infections
Hospitals have had infection control measures in place for many years. Additional infection control and prevention strategies have been implemented at healthcare institutions to screen for and detect methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) infection or colonization.

Those who test positive for MRSA may be isolated to prevent the spread to others and/or decolonized with a nasal antibiotic ointment and daily cleansing with special antimicrobial wipes. Some facilities administer nasal antibiotic and antimicrobial wipes to all patients admitted to the intensive care unit (ICU).

MRSA screening options:

  • A nasal culture (collected by inserting a swab inside the nose) is used to screen healthy people to determine whether someone has been colonized with MRSA and is a carrier.
  • Nasal swabs may also be collected to detect MRSA colonization based on rapid molecular tests, which do not grow the bacteria but detect their presence and antibiotic resistance by identifying the gene responsible for the methicillin resistance.

Currently, people with serious, invasive MRSA infections are usually treated with vancomycin. This is an antibiotic that must be administered intravenously (IV), often for several weeks. In most cases, vancomycin will help to eliminate the MRSA infection, but it does not prevent/eradicate colonization.

Community-acquired infections
National efforts are underway to raise awareness in the community about the existence of MRSA and to encourage preventive measures. Examples of steps you can take to lower your risk of getting a MRSA infection include:

  • Clean and cover cuts, scrapes and wounds until they are healed.
  • Avoid sharing personal items such as razors or towels.
  • Routinely clean shared equipment, such as sports equipment.
  • If you think you have an infection, see your healthcare practitioner.
  • Practice good hygiene such as frequent hand washing and/or the use of alcohol-based hand gels. For more on the proper way to wash your hands, visit this Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) web site.

Many sports teams and institutions have put procedures in place to more rapidly recognize and address MRSA infections. Healthcare providers are being urged to order cultures and susceptibility testing routinely with outpatient skin and wound infections, to monitor the affected person carefully for effectiveness of treatment, and to be alert for the possibility of CA-MRSA.

Outbreaks of CA-MRSA are investigated and traced back to their source in order to identify the cause, to determine whether other people may have unrecognized MRSA infections or colonization, and to reduce the potential for additional cases.

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