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News Release

Media Contact: Tom Grant

Published on October 19, 2007

Public Health Advisory

What the Public Needs to Know About Methicillin-Resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA)

Recent published research on Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) as well as continued media coverage has brought this important public health issue into the spotlight.  The medical experts at Shady Grove Adventist Hospital have compiled the following information to help the public understand "Staph" infections, including MRSA.

Health Illustrated Encyclopedia: MRSA Infection

What is Staphylococcus aureus (Staph)?

Staphylococcus aureus , also called "Staph," are bacteria commonly carried on the skin or in the nose of healthy people.  Approximately 25 to 30 percent of the population carries the Staph bacteria.  In fact, Staph bacteria are one of the most common causes of skin infections in the United States, but most of these skin infections are minor (such as pimples and boils) and can be treated without antibiotics. 

What is methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA)?

Staph infections are commonly treated with a group of antibiotics called methicillin, which includes oxacillin, penicillin and amoxicillin.  However, some staph bacteria have developed a resistance to these antibiotics.  This type of Staph infection is called methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus, or MRSA.  While 25 to 30 percent of the public is colonized with Staph, approximately one percent is colonized with MRSA.

How common are Staph infections and what are the signs/symptoms?

Most Staph infections occur among patients in hospitals or other healthcare settings; however, it is becoming more common in the community setting.  Staph bacteria, including MRSA, can cause skin infections that may look like a pimple or boil and can be red, swollen, painful, or have pus or other drainage.

What should I do if I think that I have a Staph infection or MRSA?

If you have signs or symptoms of a Staph infection (listed above), contact your doctor immediately.

How can I help to stop the spread of Staph infections including MRSA?

Staph bacteria do not spread through the air.  Instead, they can easily spread through direct contact between people.  Poor hygiene, such as not washing hands, is one of the most common ways that Staph infections are spread. According to the CDC, the following steps will help to stop the spread of Staph infections or MRSA:

  1. Cover wounds.   Keep wounds that are draining or have pus covered with clean, dry bandages.  Pus from infected wounds can contain Staph and MRSA, so keeping the infection covered will help prevent the spread to others.  Bandages or tape can be discarded with the regular trash.
  2. Clean hands.   You, your family, and others in close contact should wash their hands frequently with soap and warm water or use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer.  This is particularly important after changing a bandage or touching an infected wound.
  3. Do not share personal items.  Avoid sharing personal items such as towels, washcloths, razors, clothing or uniforms.  Also, it is important to wash sheets, towels and clothes that become soiled with water and laundry detergent.  Drying clothes in a hot dryer, rather than air-drying, also helps kill bacteria in clothes.  Also, do not allow others to share eating utensils or take bites of your food.
  4. Talk to your doctor. If you develop signs of a Staph infection, contact your health provider immediately.  Also, t ell any healthcare providers who treat you that you have or had a Staph or MRSA skin infection.

How are Staph infections treated?

Treatment for staph infections may include antibiotics.  In addition, the infection may need to be drained by a physician.

Can good cleaning help to stop the spread of the Staph bacteria in my house?

Yes.  Commercial disinfectants or a fresh solution of bleach and water (1 part of bleach with 9 parts of water) are the best way to clean your home if you suspect the presence of staph bacteria.  Staph bacteria are easy to kill on surfaces as long as it is in contact with disinfectant cleaner for enough time.  When cleaning, simply wet the surface well with cleaner and let it air dry to kill the germs.

For more information, visit our online Health Library or the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Web site at

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