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How do you catch MRSA – 5 key facts

How do get MRSA? MRSA is a drug resistant staph aureus bacteria that can be on or in your body. But it not have made you ill yet through the infection of a wound or other area of skin tissue. The bacteria is often found in the nose, groin or underarm areas.

How do you catch MRSA?

The initial colonization could take place through something as simple as sharing a towel, sexual intimacy or touching a surface in your home, rails or door handles in public spaces or a touching a family pet. Many people are ‘silent carriers’ who have the MRSA bacteria on their skin but have not yet had an active infection. People can become infected within minutes if they have a wound or existing skin break. But many will carry the bacteria for years and even decades without any skin or wound infection. (1 in 3 people in the population have the easier to treat SA part of MRSA on their skin anyway – these can also be dangerous but are easier to treat)

How common is MRSA in the general population?

The strains that are drug resistant and are linked with hospitals are found on the skin of about 1-2% of people, although pockets of the population can have much higher colonization rates. (These include hospital staff, vet personnel and care home residents – between 4-20% of these populations are thought to be MRSA carriers without active infection. This is a conservative estimate)

What other groups of people might catch MRSA

Those who have the community strains, that often infect otherwise healthy people, may be part of infection clusters based around social groups living in close proximity or sharing common facilities. These include needle injecting drug users, military staff, prison inmates and warders, students in residence halls, children in day care, those involved in or patronising the sex industry, promiscuous heterosexuals and homosexuals and people involved in contact sports. In time people outside these high risks groups will start to become carriers as the bacteria infiltrates all aspects of a society.

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Treatment when you catch MRSA

Doctors will often seek to decolonize people who are ‘silent carriers’ prior to an operation to help prevent MRSA infection of a wound. This will usually involve bathing with special soap and a nasal cream that is designed to kill the bacteria that creates MRSA nasal colonization. Doctors are loath to give the nasal treatment to those with simple skin infections or merely carrying the bacteria. This is because of growing resistance to mupirocin, the most commonly used cream. Overuse or unfinished courses of treatment will render the drug useless and will create problems for staff trying to eradicate bacteria prior to an operation.

Catching MRSA in a hospital setting?

People who contract MRSA in hospital may have bacteria transferred into their wound as a result of nursing or surgical procedures. This is why hand hygiene is so important as the hand can be the transport that carries the bacteria to the wound area. MRSA is also thought to be airborne and can be part of dust or dead skin residues or in the moisture emitted when a person sneezes.

Remember that not all people who catch MRSA will have an active infection. It often resides in the groin area, under the arms but especially in the nose. It can set up camp in the throat or some times in the intestine. Most strains do not cause an infection on their own – they wait for wounds, grazes or inflammation that they can infect.


  1. Janet Janet

    Are hospitals the main cause of staph infections? Why?

    • Dave Dave

      Yes and No. They are a major place of infection but many people acquire it in the community and get strains that are not common in hospitals.

  2. Jami Boling Jami Boling

    I have been fighting mrsa for 13 years in the beginning a pic line was put in and vancomycin was given. I am know using a iv called orbactiv and have had serious side effects and ended up back in the hospital. We are tired from cleaning out all of my sinuses weekly this has been going on for years and our medical expenses are never ending. My kidneys are stage four I have factor five Leiden blood diese and no more pics or central lines can be due to blood clots. I’m afraid if we quit cleaning out sinuses it will spread quickly do you have any suggestions?

    • Dave Dave

      Dear Jami

      We are well read patient advocates and are good at the MRSA basics. Your case is too complex for us to comment on. We would be out of our depth.

      Sorry I can’t help more


  3. Linda Davis Linda Davis

    I have a RA factor of 86 and am bedridden…I also have asthma,heart trouble and a disc disease. If my Dad comes to visit with it…it’s probably not a good idea?

    • Dave Dave

      Is his infection active or is he just a carrier? At least 1 in 3 of the people who visit you will have the milder form of staph so they too are a risk. But the risk is minimised if your dad is only a carrier and does not have cold or flu. Wash your hands after his visit to help break any transmission chain and you will probably be ok.

      Dave Roberts

  4. Ricky Herrera Ricky Herrera

    My brother in law was diagnosed with mrsa on his neck and bloodstream 3 months ago, now he wants to visit my house, the problem is that prior to the diagnosis he always had back of the neck pimples and he always touches them. I’m scare he might contaminated my house.

    • David Roberts David Roberts

      Anyone who is MRSA positive can contaminate places. Has he had treatment and has the situation resolved?

      Being MRSA positive can be a lonely experience. Friends and relatives can help by considering that the risk of you becoming colonised is low and can be further lowered if you wash your hands as soon as he leaves and when you visit the toilet during his visit. Transmission can occur because you touch a surface he has touched. If you wash your hands and clean surfaces that he may have touched after he has left it be comes a very low risk.


  5. […] You can catch MRSA in the home, in hospitals or in public environments with high touch surfaces used by many people. It is often accidentally left behind by an MRSA carrier on hard surfaces where it can survive for weeks. High contact sport, shared gym equipment, sex and shared household items can also be part of the MRSA transmission chain. Read More […]

  6. […] 1-2% of the population are thought to be MRSA carriers – with much larger percentages in some high risk groups. Only a small percentage of those have active MRSA infections. MRSA is usually an infection that preys on other wounds. If you become a carrier because of contact with another carrier it does not mean that you will develop an infection. It just places you at a higher risk if you do as there are some drugs that MRSA resists. So – your mrsa incubation period could be months or years or even decades. MRSA often waits until you have a wound, nick or cut which it can compromise. You can be healthy and feeling no ill effects for a long time – and you can stop being a carrier in many circumstances. […]

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