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What is MRSA? What are the symptoms? And how can you prevent infection?

What is MRSA?

MRSA or Methicillin-Resistant Staphylococcus Aureus is a bacterial infection. Unfortunately, it’s resistant to many antibiotics, which can make it difficult to treat. For that reason, it’s called a ‘superbug’. It can live on an infected person’s skin as well as in their ears, nose and throat.

How do you catch MRSA?

MRSA is often spread through skin-to-skin contact. But it can also be picked up from surfaces or objects that an infected person has touched. It can also get into your bloodstream if you become infected through a wound or graze. It often infects people who are already ill.

What are the symptoms?

• fever with a high temperature
• chest, muscle and joint pains
• boils and abscesses – some people may mistake these for insect or spider bites
• extreme fatigue
• headache
• shortness of breath


What should I do if I think I may be infected?

See your doctor. This is particularly important if you have a fever, or already have an infection that doesn’t seem to be getting better.

What should I be aware of?

Surprisingly, a lot of people can carry this infection on their skin or in their nose and ears. They may never become ill or have any symptoms. But if someone is already ill, their immune system will be lowered, and if they then pick up MRSA it can make them very poorly.
Why hand washing is an important defense

Hand washing with soap and safe water is one way to help prevent the spread of MRSA as soap helps remove dirt and bacteria from hands.

You can help protect yourself and your family from becoming ill with MRSA by making sure you wash your hands regularly. Unwashed – or poorly washed – hands can transfer bacteria to food, water and household surfaces, rapidly spreading disease.
Find out more about effective hand washing <link to article on hand washing>

How can I protect myself from MRSA?

  • Wash your hands often with soap and safe water: if there’s no soap, scrub hands with ash or sand and rinse with safe water.
  • Always wash and cover open wounds: this will prevent infection.
  • Use your own towels: this helps to prevent the bacteria being transferred from person to person.
  • Wash clothes and sheets: MRSA can live on materials for a long time.

3 quick tips to keep you safe from MRSA

1. Always wash your hands. Washing your hands thoroughly and regularly with soap and water is one of your best defenses.

2. Use clean dressings for wounds. This prevents the bacteria entering the bloodstream.

3. Wash clothes and sheets on a high temperature. 60 degrees is the recommended temperature.

MRSA myths

Myth: MRSA isn’t treatable.
Fact: Although it’s resistant to many antibiotics, it can be treated. However, prevention is always better than cure.

Myth: MRSA is impossible to prevent.
Fact: Although it can spread very quickly on clothes, surfaces and through skin-to-skin contact, it can be prevented with thorough hand washing and vigilance, especially around the very young, elderly or ill.