Staphylococcus aureus, or staph, is a bacterium found in the nose or on the skin of about 20–30% of people in the United States. Staph bacteria are usually harmless but can sometimes cause serious infections. Most staph infections can be treated with antibiotics; however, some strains have developed antibiotic resistance.
Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) is the name for the strains of staph bacteria that have become resistant to certain antibiotics that are usually used to treat staph infections. MRSA is the most common drug-resistant infection found in hospital settings, and it is on the rise.
The two main types of MRSA include healthcare-associated MRSA (HA MRSA), which is found mainly in hospital patients and long-term care facility residents, and community-associated MRSA (CA MRSA), which is found in those who have not had contact with healthcare facilities.
MRSA is usually spread by direct contact with an infected wound or from contaminated hands, usually those of healthcare providers. Also, people who carry MRSA but do not have signs of infection can spread the bacteria to others (i.e., people who are colonized).
Employees should be encouraged to practice good personal and hand hygiene, such as:
In healthcare facilities, such as a hospital or nursing home, MRSA can cause severe problems including:
The symptoms of MRSA infections depend on the part of the body that is infected. MRSA is often confused with a spider bite. Most MRSA infections appear as a bump or infected area on the skin that may be:
Every year, lives are lost because of the spread of infections in hospitals. Infection control is key to stopping MRSA in hospitals. Proper hand washing is the most effective way to prevent the spread of infections in hospitals. If you are a patient, don't be afraid to remind friends, family, and health care providers to wash their hands before getting close to you.
Other steps health care workers can take include:
Whenever possible, patients with MRSA will have a single room or will share a room only with someone else who also has MRSA. Healthcare providers will put on gloves and wear a gown over their clothing while taking care of patients with MRSA. Visitors and health care workers caring for people in isolation may be required to wear protective garments and must follow strict hand hygiene procedures. Contaminated surfaces and laundry items should be properly disinfected.
Depending on the specific workplace situation, some personal protective equipment (PPE) may be needed as a barrier against the transmission of MRSA from an infected person to a non-infected employee. This may include, but is not limited to, the use of gloves, eye protection and facemasks (e.g., surgical masks).
This OSHA standard (1910.141) requires an employer to provide:
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