What is MRSA?

Learn what the MRSA infection is, how it spreads, how you can avoid catching it, and what to do once you have it.

Sanaz Majd, MD,
June 26, 2013
Episode #098

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How Do You Know if You Have MRSA?

Anyone can get MRSA. It tends to spread more rapidly in those living with someone colonized with it, or in public spaces such as nursing homes, hospitals, prisons, college dorms, and fitness centers. You might recall Get-Fit Guy’s bout with MRSA that he contracted at the gym. You can get it by touching someone who has it, and then touching your skin or nose. MRSA can live on objects and surfaces, such as athletic equipment and doorknobs, for months.

The chances of contracting MRSA are greater if you use frequent antibiotics, or stop them before finishing the prescribed course or miss doses.

Those who are carriers of MRSA may not show any symptoms, or they may tend to get more recurrent skin infections. These tend to be red, swollen, sometimes painful lumps or pimples under the skin that may drain pus. If left untreated, they can get bigger and may need to be lanced with a scalpel, drained, and then packed with special gauze. Often, this gauze needs to be changed every 1 to 2 days until the opening slowly heals from the inside out.

More serious infections can cause pneumonia, sepsis (which is an infection of the bloodstream), or surgical wound infections.

If your doctor suspects MRSA, your wound or discharge can be swabbed and sent to the lab for testing.

How to Avoid Contracting MRSA?

  • Wash your hands frequently and thoroughly with soap and water or alcohol-based sanitizer

  • Keep skin openings, such as cuts, covered with a bandage until they are healed

  • Avoid contact with other people’s wounds or skin openings

  • Do not share razors or towels with others

  • Disinfect gym equipment prior to using it