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.
You might also be interested in:
- MRSA News – Updated Daily From Around The World
- How do you catch MRSA – 5 key facts
- MRSA Infection – 4 Things You Should Know
- MRSA Symptoms – What are the signs
- Living with someone who has MRSA – 7 key facts
- MRSA Treatment Guidelines
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.