Answers FAQ

MRSA Infection FAQs

Reviewed by Charles P. Davis, MD, PhD

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Q:MRSA describes a specific type of bacteria that are resistant to certain antibiotics. True or False?

A:True. Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) is a type of staph bacteria that is resistant to certain antibiotics, including methicillin, oxacillin, penicillin, and amoxicillin.

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Q:Is MRSA contagious?

A:Yes. MRSA is highly contagious and anyone can get it. You can get MRSA the same way you can get a cold, such as by touching someone or something that has Staph bacteria on it and then touching your eyes, nose, or any scrape or abrasion on your skin.

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Q:"Superbug" is a commonly used word to describe MRSA.

A:True. MRSA is often referred to as a "superbug," which is a nonspecific word that is used to describe any microorganism that is resistant to at least one or more commonly used antibiotics.

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Q:Where are MRSA bacteria are most likely found?

A:In hospitals. In U.S. hospitals, MRSA causes more than 60% of Staph infections. Additionally, MRSA outbreaks occur in diverse types of people who are constantly in close contact, such as team players of contact sports, dormitory residents, inmates, and armed-services personnel.

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Q:Some of us carry MRSA bacteria on our bodies. Where?

A:Noses. Approximately 25%-30% of us have Staph bacteria in our noses.

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Q:What is the best defense against MRSA?

A:Good hygiene. The best defense against MRSA is good hygiene (especially hand washing). Note: There is no vaccine against MRSA.

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Q:MRSA most often enters the body through droplets from coughing or sneezing. True or False?

A:False. MRSA most often enters the body through a cut or wound by direct contact. The key to preventing MRSA infections is for everyone to practice good hygiene: Keep your hands clean by washing thoroughly with soap and water or using an alcohol-based hand rub. Keep cuts and scrapes clean and covered with a bandage until healed. Avoid contact with other people's wounds or bandages. Avoid sharing personal items such as towels or razors.

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Q:MRSA can cause sepsis, which is an infection of the blood. True or False?

A:True. Severe cases of MRSA can result in MRSA spreading into the blood and causing sepsis. The term sepsis is often used interchangeably with septicemia, a serious, life-threatening blood infection that progresses very quickly and is often fatal.

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Q:A MRSA skin infection can often mimics a spider bite. True or False?

A:True. MRSA most often appears as a skin infection, like a boil or abscess. Many people who actually have a Staph skin infection often mistake it for a spider bite.

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Q:What are complications of a MRSA infection?

A:"Flesh-eating" disease, pneumonia and death. Staph infections are known to cause pneumonia. In rare cases, a MRSA infection can be serious or fatal. Very rarely, Staph can result in necrotizing fasciitis, or "flesh-eating" bacterial infections. These are serious skin infections that spread very quickly.

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Q:The skin condition cellulitis can be caused by MRSA or by other bacterial types. True or False?

A:True. MRSA is one of several bacterial types that can cause cellulitis, an infection of the deeper layers of skin and the tissues beneath. On the surface, the skin looks pink or red, like sunburn, and may be warm, tender, and swollen. Cellulitis may spread quickly over a few hours.

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