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This fact sheet answers frequently asked questions about MRSA.

MRSA is a type of Staph that is resistant to many commonly used antibiotics. Because of this, infection with MRSA can be difficult to treat.

The basics

What is “Staph?”

“Staph” refers to bacteria called Staphylococcus aureus. It is a common cause of skin infections. Staph does not always cause illness. You can find it on the skin or in the noses of many healthy people. 

Who can become infected with MRSA?

Anyone can get MRSA. People in hospitals or healthcare facilities, or those with underlying disease are at higher risk for developing MRSA.

How is MRSA spread?

The Staph bacteria usually spread through direct contact with infected skin. It can also live on objects or surfaces for about a day. Touching contaminated objects can also spread MRSA. 

How long can a person carry MRSA?

Some people can carry MRSA for days to months. In some cases, a person may continue to carry the germ even after treatment for symptoms.


If MRSA makes a person sick, what are the symptoms?

Symptoms of MRSA include skin and wound infections, pneumonia, and bloodstream infections. Some of these illnesses can be serious and need treatment in a hospital.  

How is MRSA diagnosed?

You can diagnose MRSA by taking a swab from a person’s skin, nose, or an infected site. A lab test will determine if Staph bacteria are present. If a certain type of Staph is present, the lab conducts tests using various antibiotics to determine if the bacteria are resistant or sensitive to different antibiotics.  


How can you reduce the spread of MRSA?

The single most important means of reducing the spread of MRSA is good hand washing. Wash hands with soap and warm water or an alcohol-based hand cleaner. 

How can I prevent Staph or MRSA skin infections?

  • Clean your hands
  • Keep your hands clean by washing thoroughly with soap and water or using an alcohol-based hand sanitizer
  • Cover your wounds
  • Keep cuts and scrapes clean and covered with a bandage until healed
  • Avoid direct contact with other people’s wounds or dirty bandages
  • Do not share personal items
  • Avoid sharing personal items such as towels or razors

For more information, visit the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.


What is the treatment for MRSA?

Although MRSA is resistant to many antibiotics, you can treat MRSA with antibiotics such as vancomycin or others. Lab testing can help determine which antibiotic will work against a particular Staph infection. New medicines are also in development to treat MRSA. 

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