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What is methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA)?

A type of staphylococcus or “staph” bacteria that is resistant to many antibiotics. MRSA infections are usually mild superficial infections of the skin that can be treated successfully with proper skin care and antibiotics.

What causes an infection?

MRSA, like all staph bacteria, can be spread from one person to another through casual contact or through contaminated objects. It is commonly spread from the hands of someone who has MRSA. MRSA is usually not spread through the air like the common cold or flu virus, unless a person has MRSA pneumonia and is coughing. These infections can occur among people who are likely to have cuts or wounds and who have close contact with one another.

What are the symptoms of MRSA?

  • In a wound, that area of your skin may be red or tender
  • In a urinary tract infection you may have fever, back pain, burning when you urinate or a need to urinate more often than usual
  • MRSA may cause skin infections such as boils, abscesses or cellulitis

What can be done to prevent getting or spreading MRSA?

To protect yourself from MRSA:

  • Practice good hygiene.
    • Keep your hands clean by washing them frequently and thoroughly with soap and warm water or using an alcohol-based hand sanitizer. Hand-washing is the best way to avoid spreading germs.
    • Keep cuts and scrapes clean and covered with a bandage and avoid contact with other people’s wounds or bandages.
    • Do not share personal items such as towels, washcloths, razor, and clothing
  • Be smart about using antibiotics. Know that antibiotics can help treat bacterial infections but they cannot cure viral infections. Always ask your doctor if antibiotics are the best treatment and avoid pressuring your doctor into prescribing antibiotics when they won’t help you get better.
  • Always take all your antibiotic medicine as prescribed by your doctor. Using only part of the medicine can cause antibiotic-resistant bacteria to develop.
  • Do not save any antibiotics and do not use antibiotics that were prescribed for someone else.

To keep from spreading the bacteria if you have an infection with MRSA:

  • Cover your wound with clean, dry bandages and follow your doctor’s instructions on caring for your wound.
  • Keep your hands clean. You, your family, and other people with whom you are in close contact should wash their hands frequently with soap and warm water or use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer, especially after changing the bandage or touching the wound.
  • Do not share towels, washcloths, razors, clothing, or other items that may have had contact with your wound or a bandage. Wash your sheets, towels, and clothes with warm water and detergent and dry them in a hot dryer, if possible.
  • Keep your environment clean by wiping frequently touched surfaces such as countertops, doorknobs, and light switches) with a disinfectant.