MRSA in Hospital Patients
What is MRSA?
Staphylococcus (STAFF-ih-low-KOCK-us) aureus (ARE-ee-us) is a type of bacteria, or germ. These bacteria are often called “staph.” Staph bacteria can live in the nose and on the skin. 1 in 5 people has these bacteria.
In most cases, staph bacteria cause no infection. But in some people, staph can cause serious infections such as pneumonia, wound infections, and blood infections.
Methicillin (meth-ih-SILL-in) is an antibiotic often used to treat staph infections. When staph are “methicillin resistant,” most antibiotics cannot kill the bacteria. Methicillin-resistant staphylococcus aureus bacteria are called “MRSA” for short.
Who gets MRSA?
People more likely to get infected or “colonized” (CALL-un-eye-zd) with MRSA are those who:
- Are very ill
- Are in the hospital for a long time
- Have a serious disease that harms the body’s ability to fight infection
- Have taken many antibiotics
What is colonization?
Some people can pick up and carry MRSA on their skin or in their nose for weeks or months. These people do not get sick, but they have MRSA. This is called “colonization” (CALL-uh-nih-ZAY-shun). People colonized with MRSA do not have symptoms. Bacteria are present but do not cause an infection.
Why are some patients being tested for MRSA?
People who carry MRSA can spread the germ to other people, who may become very ill. We are testing patients for MRSA colonization in order to prevent the spread of MRSA to other patients.The only way to check for colonization is by a test called a “culture.” A special cotton swab is gently rubbed in the nose. This sample is tested for MRSA. The test results are ready in 2 or 3 days.
MRSA can also be spread to objects and other surfaces in a room. Hospitals and other health care centers use special precautions (pre-CAW-shuns) to help prevent the spread of MRSA. Patients with MRSA are placed on special precautions. This means:
- Patients have a private room if one is available. If a private room is not available, two people with MRSA may share a room.
- All staff and visitors should wear a gown and gloves to enter the iso¬lation room. Sometimes a mask is also needed. These items are discarded when they leave your room.
- Before leaving the room, all patients, staff, and visitors must wash their hands with soap and water or waterless hand cleaner.
- Generally, patients with MRSA should not sit in patient lounges or go to the cafeteria.
- Personal items in your room can be contaminated. You should have as few personal items in the room as needed. Such items should be stored in drawers and closets to keep surfaces free to be cleaned.
- During repeat visits to the hospital, special precautions will be used.
These actions help to prevent the spreadof MRSA from patient to patient and help reduce the spread of infections in our hospital.
When patients with MRSA go home, they can return to their normal routine:
- Patients may go out in public.
- At home, good hand washing by every person in the house is very important.
- Laundry and dishes can be done as usual.
- No special cleaning is required.
NOTE: If the individual has a draining wound or uncontrolled secretions or excretions, special precautions should be taken.
Patients should tell anyone caring for them that they have MRSA. This includes home health providers, nurses, therapists, doctors’ office staff, and rescue squads.
If you have questions
If you have any questions about MRSA, please ask your nurse or doctor. You can also contact the hospital’s Infection Control Department. Tell your nurse that you want to do so.
Reviewed March 2011