Symptoms of MRSA
- Colonization with MRSA is similar to being colonized with other naturally-occurring bacteria and refers to the asymptomatic carriage of MRSA on the skin or in the nose.
- Most people with MRSA on their skin or in their nose are unaware they are colonized, and never develop a MRSA infection.
- When MRSA enters a break in the skin, it can cause infections that may look like a pimple or boil and can be red, swollen, painful, or have pus or other drainage.
- More serious MRSA infections include pneumonia, blood stream infections, or severe skin or wound infections.
Transmission Routes of MRSA
- MRSA is transmitted most frequently by direct skin-to-skin contact.
- MRSA can also be transmitted by: Contact with drainage from infected scrapes, cuts, or other skin wounds. Contact with personal items contaminated with drainage from infected scrapes, cuts, or other skin wounds. These items can include contaminated bandages, towels, washcloths, soap, razors, topical preparations, athletic or gym equipment, and uniforms or other clothing.
- Risk of transmission is low from environmental surfaces that are not contaminated by skin wounds or frequent direct skin contact. Common sense approaches to keeping surfaces clean, such as cleaning them when they become soiled, will reduce the levels of all bacteria on environmental surfaces.
Treatment of MRSA
- Persons colonized with MRSA do not need to be treated. Transmission to others can be prevented by good hygiene, including frequent hand washing.
- Most MRSA infections are treated with good wound and skin care. Keep the area clean and dry. Perform hand hygiene before and after caring for the area. Alcohol-based hand sanitizers should be used if soap and water is not available. Carefully dispose of any bandages.
- Sometimes treatment requires the use of antibiotics. Antibiotics should be used at the discretion of a healthcare provider. If antibiotics are needed, it is important for the patient to use the medication exactly as directed, including taking the complete prescribed course, even if he/she is feeling better before the medication is used up. If the infection has not improved within a few days, the student’s healthcare provider should be contacted for evaluation.
Prevention of MRSA in Schools
- Schools should provide ready access to sinks, soaps, and clean paper towels.
- Staph and MRSA infections in schools can be prevented if staff and students follow basic hygiene measures:
- Keep hands clean by washing thoroughly with soap (preferably not bar soap) and water or with an alcohol-based hand sanitizer if hands are not visibly soiled.
- Consultation with the school district medical director and proper supervision is needed when using alcohol-based hand sanitizers with children.
- Practice good skin care. Since staph infections start when staph enters the body through a break in the skin, keeping skin healthy and intact is an important preventive measure.
- Wash any cut or break in the skin with soap and water and apply a clean bandage until healed.
- Avoid contact with other people’s wounds or bandages. If it is necessary for a staff member to assist with a student’s bandage, that staff member should do so under the direction/advisement of the school health personnel. They should wear gloves, place the used bandage in the trash, and wash their hands and forearms immediately after removing gloves. (Use standard barrier precautions when exposed to body fluids.)
- Avoid sharing personal items such as cloth towels.
Students or staff with symptoms of MRSA should contact a healthcare provider and do the following:
- Keep wounds clean and covered with a bandage until healed. Change bandages as recommended by the healthcare provider or when soiled. Discard promptly used bandages or tape in the regular trash.
- Wash hands and forearms before and after caring for wounds and throughout the day. Wash for at least 20 seconds using soap (preferably not bar soap) and warm water, and dry your hands on a clean paper towel.
- Do not share personal items such as towels, washcloths, soap, razors, topical preparations, uniforms, or clothing that may have had contact with an infected wound or bandage.
- Wash towels, washcloths, uniforms, or clothes that become soiled with hot water and laundry detergent. Drying clothes in a hot dryer, rather than air-drying, also helps kill bacteria in clothes.
- Take all antibiotics as prescribed and for the full length of time prescribed.
- Report new skin sores or boils to a healthcare provider.
The risk of transmitting MRSA in the classroom is low. This is a condensed version of a larger nine-page document from the Department of Health.