Hospital Patient Guide: MRSA
What is MRSA?
The bacteria existing on and inside our bodies can be good, or they can be harmful. Staphylococcus aureus is a type of potentially harmful bacterium and is very common, existing in a third of all people with a healthy immune system. This bacterium can exist in the groin, armpit or nasal passage. MRSA stands for methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus; a variety of bacterium that often causes infections among hospital patients. Sometimes MRSA can be difficult to manage due to the body’s resistance of the antibiotic methicillin, and other antibiotics. It is possible for MRSA to colonise on the surface of your body and not impact your health or wellbeing. However, MRSA can prove problematic if it penetrates into the body and causes an infection. Minor skin infections are the outcome of most MRSA infections, yet it is possible for MRSA to cause severe infections, including heart-valve and artificial implants, and it can cause blood poisoning. MRSA infections are contagious and can spread to other people.
What is the likelihood of me contracting an MRSA infection?
Healthy people with a strong immune system are unlikely to become infected. However, that risk is increased when you are in hospital and undergoing surgery or an invasive procedure. MRSA is most commonly spread through making physical contact with contaminated objects, surfaces or people (such as a healthcare member). To protect yourself from getting an MRSA infection, you should ensure that you:
- Wash your hands thoroughly on a regular basis, using alcohol gel and/or soap and water.
- Ensure that healthcare members have also washed their hands before coming into contact with you.
- Avoid touching any wound dressings or areas where the skin is broken.
How will I be tested for MRSA?
It is likely that you will be screened for MRSA before being admitted to hospital to check if you are colonised with the bacterium. You could also be screened after 1-2 days of you being in hospital, and again during your time there. Using cotton wool, a member of our nursing team will take a nasal swab, which will involve them wiping the wool over the surface of the nasal passage (see figure 1). A swab may also be taken from the armpit or groin. The sample will then be sent for testing in a laboratory.
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If the nursing team believe that you have an infection, they will take another swab from the area they think is infected. If the infection is confirmed, you will be given antibiotics dependant on your test results.
What happens if I do have MRSA?
If you are colonised with MRSA, then you might have to stay in isolation away from other patients. Ointment is another solution; used up to three times a day it can help to remove MRSA from the nasal passage. You may be advised to use wash with special body wash and shampoo that contains medication in it. If you are found to be colonised with MRSA before your hospital stay then you may be asked to treat it when you are at home using these methods.
Will my visitors be at risk?
Your visitors should not be at risk of contracting an MRSA infection, even if you have an infection or are colonised by MRSA. However, all visitors must be sure to wash their hands before and after they have come in contact with you.
What happens after I leave hospital?
It is possible for you to remain colonised after receiving effective treatment in hospital. Yet, even then the risk of the MRSA spreading to other people is significantly low. You should still wash your hands regularly, and apply antiseptic cream and dressings on small wounds. Get in contact with your consultant if one or more of the following occur: you feel nauseas or are sick, your temperature is high, there is pus coming out of the wound, or if the wound becomes painful or red.
References: EIDO Healthcare Limited - The operation and treatment information on this website is produced using information from EIDO Healthcare Ltd and is licensed by Aspen Healthcare.
The information should not replace advice that your relevant health professional would give you.
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