What is MRSA?

We all carry bacteria on and in our bodies. MRSA (Meticillin Resistant Staphylococcus aureus) is a bacterium that can cause infections. About three percent of us are carriers of MRSA - this is called colonisation and means it lives harmlessly on our skin and in our noses when weare healthy. There's no way of knowing if you are a carrier as there are no symptoms.

It is not normally dangerous to the general public or people in their own homes but it can affect those who are ill. Commonly, MRSA causes boils, infected wounds, abscesses, bloodstream infection, chest infection and urine infection.

It is important to know that the numbers of MRSA cases reported by the hospital to the Department of Health are of blood stream infections only and do not include all positive MRSA tests i.e. wound infections, etc. and people who are colonised.

MRSA has become resistant to some antibiotics. There are two reasons this happens:

• a course of antibiotics is not finished as prescribed;

• antibiotics are overused allowing the bacteria to develop a resistance.


Why is MRSA so widespread now?

MRSA usually spreads from person to person when it can. Although MRSA has been around since the 1960s, there are a number of reasons it has become more widespread. These include:

• infections may have gone undiagnosed in previous years;

• older people in our society are getting illnesses connected to long-term health problems that require antibiotics;

• we treat illnesses, such as tonsillitis, with antibiotics when given time, the body can usually heal itself;

• the bugs are becoming harder to treat with antibiotics as they find ways to resist medicine.


How do people get MRSA?

MRSA usually spreads from person to person by entering the body through a wound or break in the skin (i.e. where an intravenous drip is inserted).

Those that carry MRSA can:

• infect themselves by touching the drips or breaks in the skin;

• pass it on to others by touching a wound or by handling equipment around them.

MRSA can also be spread by:

• people coming into direct contact with carriers or those diagnosed with MRSA;

• through indirect contact with individuals who have not washed their hands;

• via indirect contact with a care environment that has not been properly cleaned.

It is important that our hospitals are kept clean and staff are working hard to make sure that happens. However, we should all have clean hands regardless of whether in hospital or not.


Is MRSA Treatable?

Yes. If you are found to be a carrier, decolonisation treatment for MRSA includes antiseptic shampoo and cream to help reduce or remove MRSA from hair, skin and nostrils. Those who are infected with MRSA will be prescribed antibiotics from a doctor, which must be taken as directed. Treatment can take place in hospital, at home or a residential or care home.

MRSA Screening

The following patients would be screened for MRSA at admission:

  • those who are admitted to ITU/ HDU/ NNU/ Astor/ Bronte /Cambridge/ Canbury
  • those who have tested positive for MRSA in the past
  • those admitted from another care institution
  • those who have been in hospital within the three months preceding this current hospital admission
  • those who are admitted for elective orthopaedic surgery, including day cases.
  • those who are admitted for vascular surgery, excluding day cases.
  • those who are in the same bay as a patient with MRSA
  • those who frequently attend the Haematology Day Unit.


If I have MRSA how can I protect those around me?

If you’re in hospital:

• Bring in your own toiletries. Do not share;

• Make regular and thorough hand washing part of your daily routine especially:

• before eating or handling food

• after using the toilet/ commode

• after blowing your nose/ coughing/ sneezing

• after handling rubbish

• when hands look or feel dirty

• Keep your bedside table free from clutter as this makes cleaning easier;

• Report anything that doesn't look clean.

If you’re receiving visitors:

• Ask them to adhere to guidelines on how many visitors are expected at one time;

• Make sure they wash their hands and use the cleansing gel / hand rub before and after they enter a ward;

• Make sure they check with the nurse if they wish to bring in food or flowers;

• Limit clutter and gifts - the less presents, food and magazines the easier it is to clean.

At home:

• If you're taking antibiotics make sure you finish the course even if you feel better;

• Tell friends and family not to visit if they have immunity problems;

• Make sure you, your visitors and carers wash their hands:

• after using the toilet/ changing nappies

• after touching animals or animal waste

• after handling rubbish

• before and after preparing food and drinks

• after blowing your nose/ coughing/ sneezing

• when hands look or feel dirty

• If you're having wounds dressed at home, keep pets away

• It's a good idea to wash clothing/ bedding separately from the rest of the family's at the highest temperature the fabric will allow. Normal soap powder is fine.


It's ok to ask

If you have any concerns about cleanliness, MRSA and how it is treated, and MRSA screening ask a healthcare professional, they can help put your mind at rest. Don't be frightened to ask your carers if they've washed their hands. They will expect it and by doing so you will be helping to control infection.

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