What is MRSA? Symptoms and Prevention

What is MRSA? You’ve probably seen the recent headlines about this menacing “super bug” ravaging through hospitals, gyms, and even schools.

MRSA stands for methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus. This is a fancy way of saying that an MRSA staph infection is resistant to most antibiotics, and thus, harder to treat.

The important thing to remember is that MRSA isn’t new. The threat has been around for many years, but a recent report from the American Medical Association highlighted the number of deaths it caused in 2005 (nineteen thousand). That report, combined with the untimely death of a 17-year-old student due to the infection, sparked fear in the hearts of many parents and hospital patients.

MRSA Symptoms

One of the reasons many cases of MRSA go untreated is that the symptoms are fairly common among several other illnesses. Some of the most common MRSA symptoms are simply flu-like in nature or, in some cases, red pimples or boils that seem to last longer than they should.

Still, if you feel you may have been exposed to the bacteria, you should visit your doctor immediately at the first sign of any trouble. If caught early enough, almost every case is fully treatable.

MRSA Prevention

Of course, the best way to deal with MRSA is to simply prevent it in the first place. And, it’s actually easier than you might expect:

  • Wash your hands. It seems easy enough, and you’ve been hearing it since you were a kid, but it really is one of the most effective ways to prevent MRSA, in addition to several other illnesses.

    “It is not glamorous but it is very true — hand hygiene is by far the best means to prevent the spread of all diseases,” said Dr. Arjun Srinivasan, an epidemiologist at the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

  • Cover up. Cover all scrapes, cuts, or any other open wounds with bandages and/or band-aids. If MRSA makes its way into your bloodstream, that’s when it can quickly become potentially fatal.
  • Ban the barefoot. If you frequent your local gym locker room, be sure to wear sandals (even in the showers). This will help keep your feet from coming in direct contact with bacteria others may have left in your path.
  • Wipe it down. Always carry a towel with you when you workout, so you can wipe down any equipment that others may have inconsiderately left sweaty.

Nearly every case of MRSA is spread by direct contact, rather than through the air, which is why good hygiene is the most important and effective way to stay healthy.

Have you or anyone you know been infected by MRSA?

Comments on this entry are closed.

  • Amen to that, I wash my hands at least 3-4 times per day.

  • This MRSA coverage is going overboard. Why don’t we concentrate this much on the healthcare problems, or Iraq?!

  • This is scary stuff, but as the article mentions good prevention and cleanliness is critical.

  • My aunt contracted MRSA, but luckily it was caught quickly and easily cured. It’s still a very scary thing.

  • My daughter has MRSA right now. This is the second time. My son had it two. It is some disgusting stuff, and I know my daughter is in alot of pain. Imagine a huge pimple, with the center being as round as a decent sized diamond, full of puss and blood. When it ruptures it is like a volcano. Leaving a whole, to heal as a ugly scare. My daughter is too beautiful to be all scared up by this mess. It is very disturbing when I have to deal with MRSA!

  • Very sorry to hear that Darla, and nothing but the best wishes to you and your daughter.

  • I currently have MRSA, and my mother does as well. This is honestly the most painfl thing I have ever experienced. My mother developed a sore on her shoulder and was told by the MD it was a bug bite. It went away and later she got another one. They took a biopsy and did not notify my mother of any results. So when I developed a sore a few weeks later, we found out that someone from the lab had failed to notify my mother that she has MRSA. So if someone wasn’t so careless and actually did their job, I would not have gone through the hell I have, and my mother would not be in the hospital due to a horrid case of MRSA!

  • please don’t take this lightly! my friend just thoght he had some back pain and within two days he was hospitalized and fighting for his life. I say with a heavy heart that he lost the battle after a month. At 57 he leaves behind a wife and 2 kids so please be careful


  • I am recovering from MRSA. I still have a small leasion on my leg. I actually had two places on my right leg one on the front and one on the back. I have been sick with it for over a month. I have absolutely no idea where or how I got this and am normally a very healthy 40 year old. I am very strict about washing my hands and not touching door nobs and other items in public places almost to the extent that my family tells me I am a germ freak. It angers me that I have this and the fact that the doctors really give you no information about how long you will carry this in your body and if your family is safe. It is painful and I feel for those poor little children who have it. It feels like a hot poker is being driven into your flesh. The doctor cut my leasions open and drained them and they were about 1 inch wide and 2 inches deep. I applaud this site and say to you who say too much has been written about it and that it is scaring people and it is no big deal – BE AFRAID BE VERY AFRAID. There is never enough information about this.

  • My son had MRSA, my mother now has it. MRSA is growing fast . MRSA is a staph infection that is hard to get rid of and of course contaigous wash!! wash !! wash, and disinfect. it is not prejudice young and old get MRSA!!!I work with MRSA all the time. ITs a nasty infection.. thanks for listing.

    • Agreed Stephanie, great comments! So far, my step-mother, brother, and sister have all had it, because it’s so easy to spread if you’re not careful.

  • I have had MRSA once already and I think I have it again… I am really scared because I dont want to die from it. I have ADD so it is really hard for me not to pick at it and touch my face. I am really scared.

  • This comment is for Chelsea, from 10/07/08: lab technologists CANNOT give any lab results to patients at all, by law, if we do, we lose our job and our license. Results are reported to the care giver (physician, nurse practitioner, or physician’s assistant) and it is their responsibility to notify the patient. Also, bear in mind that a culture takes a while to grow so that the bacteria can be identified for a complete final report. My brother and mother are both suffering from recurrent MRSA infections. Cure requires meticulous hygiene and disinfecting the home.

  • In over 2 years of successfully treating MRSA infections, with over 403 recorded cases dealt with to date, I have learned a great deal about MRSA and its subsequent new strains. Cultures are now becoming useless because new strains of MRSA bacterium have developed the ability to morph into antibiotic-resistant strains while coming under attack from prescribed antibiotics.

    It is small wonder that Doctors scratch their heads because the antibiotics that should have cured the persons MRSA, simply has not done so. Then it’s on to another with much the same result. Treating MRSA with antibiotics is simply not the correct way forward. Antibiotics have too much impact upon the immune system and it is that immune system that must eventually deal with these pathogens. In most cases, antibiotics are actually helping more resistant strains to develop. When bacterium develop the ability to change their basic DNA, you need something more effective than antibiotics.

    Cleanliness is helpful, as is hygiene, but the thing everyone misses, is environmental surroundings and isolation by way of decolonization. These are absolute neccessities when dealing with a pathogen like MRSA.

    That is why we have resolved so many MRSA cases that the medical community has failed to cure. MRSA eradication is a ‘family affair’ and not just down to treating the patient. Re-infection with MRSA is absolutely rife because not all the issues are addressed.

    After writing personal eradication courses for individual cases (because no two cases are the same) the effect became very obvious. Over the last two years, hundreds of people have at last buried this clever, intelligent, but lethal pathogen forever..

    Please never underestimate MRSA. It has the ability to communicate within the body, through intercellular communication, the ability to change its genome structure and DNA and has resisted every antibiotic available.

    When I am writing an eradication course, I never underestimate my foe and always treat MRSA with the greatest respect. Respect, because although I know we are going to wipe it out, as it can’t form a resistance to what we use, I always know it will try its hardest to defeat us.

  • Chelsea, I am really sorry that you and your mom has had to deal with MRSA, but I couldn’t help but to comment on your email that you submitted.
    I work in a lab and I have worked in the lab for 15 years now, and I know that it is against policy for the lab to notify patients of any test results. It is normal protocol for the lab to notify the patient’s doctor or the doctor’s office of results.
    I am not making light of the situation by any means, but if lab did not notify the doctor they are wrong in not following up with protocol. But the the doctor and his staff should also be held accountable if they did not check to see if results were not in your mother’s records. Expecially since the infection was presummed to be MRSA. I hope that you are both doing well.

  • i had a collection of fluid on my elbow. my dr. aspirated and sent it for c & s. it came back mrsa. it was treated with bactrim and resolved. I recently had back surgery and the incision didn’t heal. when cultured, it was mrsa. after 2 rx of bactrim it finally healed. my nurse contact said “that once you have mrsa you always have it” how do i deal with this?

  • Im hoping this is okay to post this here, if not I sincerely apologise.

    I am a 25 year old university student studying here in Australia, and as part of an upcoming module we have been given the task of covering MRSA indepth, its causes, symptoms, cures etc etc.

    Many of the other students are referencing a lot of material from medical sources such as books, but Ive decided, that rather than take this on from a medical perspective, that I would like to get “real” stories from sufferers, their experiences, their pain, their frustrations. Their overall experience with this disease and how it has affected their lives.

    In particular, Im looking for those who have successfully overcome this illness and have been able to go about their lives again. What you did, how you were treated etc.

    For those that would like to help me, this will basically consist of answering a few questions, which I can send over via email, and compile your story in an interview format. The questions will be simple such as, how you contracted it, the symptoms, how you were diagnosed and what drugs were prescribed in order to fight it. You can add in anything you like.

    Please be aware though that this information will be submitted as a course entry at my university so please dont send anything if you dont want your story shared.

    I can be contacted at ramone_johnny AT dodo DOT com DOT au

    Thanks so much everyone.

    I look forward to hearing from you.


  • I have mrsa and i am still on iv treatment. It is a tuff thing to fight off. hopefully this will be the last time i will ever have to deal with this infection. To all those who have to deal with it i tip my hat to ya’ll and wish you the best of luck and hope all goes well.

  • My son is 11 years old, he had a bug bite on his arm that looked horrible on Sunday, by Monday afternoon he had a temperature of 102.6, I took him to an Immediate care, they gave me a mild anitbiotic, sent us home, on Tuesday I called his Doctor and she told me if he still had a fever Friday to bring him in, by Wednesday evening he was still running a fever, (tylenol and motrin would only bring it down to around 100) so I took him to the Emergency room, I showed that Doctor the horrible looking bite with red bumps all over his arm around the bite, they diagnosed that he had Pnuemonia, gave him a shot of antibiotics and powerful antibiotic pills and sent us home. Thursday, he still had a high fever, everytime the meds wore off–anywhere from 102.5–to 103, I called and made an appointment with his Dr for 8:00 Friday morning. My sons doctor admitted him into the Hospital Friday morning, with an expected stay of a day, Saturday night his fever again reached 103, I believe it was at this point the Doctors realized it was MRSA–Sunday morning they told me that this was a stran of MRSA and they would be putting him on the 2 strongest anitbiotics they had. Monday morning was the last fever he had, so finally Tuesday afternoon he was released. with a recheck on Thursday the doctor said he still sounded gunky, but as long as he didn’t get a fever back he would be OK, but would tire very easy for the next 6 weeks, that was 3 weeks ago, he has been doing beter and better, but I saw a little sore on his leg that is red around it, (no bumps not horrible), but still I am so worried about him, I have read that it is easier to get the second time.

    • @Amber:

      My brother went through a similar situation, and you’re right, it is hard to get rid of, so I would absolutely take him in as soon as possible to check on the new spot. The earlier you catch it the better, especially while he is still recovering from the first case.

  • My Dad is currently in the Hospital going on 24 days, he went in for a double bypass and contracted MRSA. My Dad has Rheumatoid Arthritis and has been taking steroids (Dexamethasone), for 13 years. The steroids lower ones immune system and make it very difficult for him to heal. They also are very bad on the Kidneys and prior to surgery his kidney testing showed the kidneys were in some what bad shape. The Dr. opted to do the surgery any way. About a week after the bypass surgery (which was a success), They moved him from ICU to a room. During this time he split his sternum and wound open (due to coughing, using his arms possibly). The next morning they took him back into surgery to perform a sternum re-do. While in surgery, the Dr. found some infections, they took lots of cultures( of the bone, tissue, etc.). The Dr. wired the sternum back together pulled a small amount of muscle together (but not a mussel flap) over the sternum and sewed it together, but left the wound open so wound care could debrided it every other day. Two or three days after surgery the Dr. (very nonchalantly) told us that he had three different infections. MRSA of the bone (osteomyelitis), Staphylococcus Aureus (of the wound), and Serratia (of the wound). They began giving him Vancomycin in high doses, which began to effect his Kidneys, so they lowered it as well as his steroids to try to promote healing all the way around. Yesterday, He went into Septic Shock, this is very serious. It starts with a fever, low blood pressure (which effects the Kidneys), Chest pains, not eating, and possible blood clotting and more. Septic Shock is when the blood is infected with bacteria. This can cause acute renal failure and acute pulmonary edema (swelling of the air way) so inibation is probable. They began giving him meds. to stabelize the blood pressure and bring the fever down, as well as ,increased his antibiotic and added three more. He did stabilize and currently is supporting his blood pressure without medication. They, then took his central line out and sent it off to be cultured to see if there was any infection. Today the culture came back positive. I am assuming this could possibly mean he also has MRSA of the blood now, well they are double checking this with a second blood culture that will not be back for another day or so. Everything I have gotten my hands on says that once it gets in the blood this could be fatal. It could move through the organs and began infecting them and eventually shutting them down. I wish they could tell me something! I am going crazy investigating every avenue I can. I am shocked that this is so prevalent in our health-care system. We have to be smarter, more initiative and intuitive than this. Less laziness about infectious disease control, better hand washing by health care providers etc.. I myself saw a phlebotomist come in after my Dad was already in contact isolation, NOT wash his hands. My Mom asked… how it was that he was so special ,that he did not feel he needed to wash his hands? He replied I guess I am hard headed and laughed. Mom said well, why do you not have gloves on? He replied, I can not feel the vein. Walked out of the room and did not wash his hand at all. WTF! And round and round we go….This is a prime example, to how this guys, arrogance,lazyness and inconvenience spread this crap to my poor Dad!

  • For Krisye M.-
    I am a 24 yr old server. I just finished my last dose of outpatient vancomycin IV infusion a lil over a week ago. I had MRSA sepsis and osteomyelitis. I had 3 surgeries on my right shoulder where I had MRSA collect and flushed out with 12 liters of antibiotics. I also had pneumonia caused by the MRSA which caused the drs. to add daptomycin (cubicin) to my treatment. Of the 4 weeks in the hospital I spent 2 in ICU. When I got out I only had 26 hrs of peace before I was right back for an allergic development to daptomycin. After 9 more days in, I was switched back over to vancomycin. I am back home and am trying to get better. I am in constant pain, am weak, but trying to think of it as recovery from all that. The antibiotics can cause damage to your kidneys and liver so I would be careful. For 3 weeks I was on stereoids and vancomycin due to the allergy. First Solumedrol (IV) and then prednisone to take home. It really made me susceptible to infections, colds, etc. so I have to constantly keep myself from crowded areas not to infect others or have them infect me. During my first or second surgery my mother was told I might not be able to breathe on my own if they went through with the surgery. And I am in my 20’s. Your dad will have to fight hard. MRSA is scary and near fatal, but it can be over come. I don’t know how long i have befor or even if it will get me again, but for now I have a small victory and extra time to spend with my family. And I didnt see anyone in my hospital not washing their hands, but they didn’t flush my pic regularly or use alcohol swabs prior to injections as required, so I can relate. I know you are freaking out, but things can turn out well with the right support of family, doctors and staff. I wish the best for your father

  • My 13 yr old son was just diagnosed with MRSA. Two yrs ago he had a huge adcess on his rear end. We had it surgical lanced and they prescribed an antibotic. In the last 12 month he has had 3 abcesses and with this last one they said he had MRSA. They prescribe him a cream Mupirocin to put in his nose, finger & affected area once every night for a month. Dr. also told me to give him bleach baths 3 times a week for the 1st month, then 5 times a month for the next 6 months and that should do it. I asked if any of us (family) should do anything, he said not if you don’t have any symptoms I said no one had any boils or rashes. he said then no need, he did tell me that this is very dangerous and that if I follow the treatment he would be just fine. And didn’t do any testing just looked at the wound, no follow up was scheduled. Is there a specialist I should take him to or am I just being a overly scared mom…help!

  • My Dad got MRSA in the hospital after his double bypass. It caused his chest to bust open while still in the hospital, thankfully…b/c that is when they discovered the MRSA in his sternum (osteomyelitis) and MSRA of the blood. It was horrible and he went in to septic shock (very scary). He was in the hospital for 3 1/2 mo. with a bill of 700 thousand dollars at our expense!
    MRSA is very serious…You never get rid of it. It is NEVER FULLY ERADICATED from your body. You will forever have to endure pustules, boils, contact isolation for future hospital stays and god forbid your immune system is low or you take steroids for arthritis. That is when it shows up. Be very careful b/c you can give it to others in your family and yes!!! Even if you are very conscientious and clean!

  • I am currently having my 7th outbreak in 10 months. Mine seem to be much larger than ones listed here. They are calling mine cellulitis and tell me to look for red streaking as that means it is going into the lymph system and can turn into sepsis, which then, becomes fatal.

    My first outbreak was 2 weeks after I had my baby, so I am pretty sure I contracted it from the hospital having her. I was hospitalized several days as that one sent streaks of red down my leg along w/the usual larger than a softball red swollen area. Each of mine have been as large or larger than a softball. My husband has contracted it once since I have gotten it, however, my two children have not.

    I have been keeping my home completely sanitized and hand washing is off the charts, however, w/children and their fingers always in their mouth and up their nose it is a wonder they have not contracted it.

    I have only got medical treatment w/3 of the 7 cases because the others were able to drain and get better on their own. My current one is of concern to me because not only am I having extreme pain and discomfort from the sore and discomfort from side affects of bactrim, but I also am having uncomfortable, labored breathing and a very sore lower back. Also, even though the infection is draining on its own, it is staying the same size, if not getting larger.

    I went to the ER about it as I did not want to wait for my Dr. appt. a week away and they did a chest x-ray saying it was clear and they don’t know why I have the labored breathing, however, the Dr. kept mentioning asthma and kept asking if I was wheezing, which, I am not. They gave me a breathing treatment and sent me home w/an inhaler, bactrim, and pain pills. Quite honestly, neither the breathing treatment or inhaler really did a thing for me. I feel like they are missing something.

    If there are any Dr. or nurses out there that can help or anyone going through anything similar, I would greatly appreciate your comments and/or advice. I have been the picture of health up until my first outbreak 10 months ago and I live somewhere where apparently MRSA is rampant. I do realize I am a carrier and will be for life, however the new symptoms have me worried.

  • I had been diagnosed with MRSA in November and told by ER to just take the antibiotics and it will go away and i will be fine. Then my boyfriend got it and they told him the same thing. Well, in january it came back on him. He took the antibiotics and now, for the last 3 weeks, i had a leson under my arm and on my left leg. Been put out of work and currently on disability until I take the nasal test in 3 weeks.
    On Saturday, my back started to hurt, a bad sharp pain. I hadn’t done anything to have a back ache. It’s Tuesday and my back is killing me. Does anyone know if this is MRSA related?

  • I developed MRSA from a routine medical procedure that went wrong. Four days after the procedure, Christmas Day, I was sick with what I thought was the flu. I went to my primary doctor and that is what he treated me for, the flu. I did not get better, I went to the ER, they said I had a viral syndrome and sent me home. I could barely walk. I went back to the doctor, got a steroid pack, felt a little better, but then worse again. I continued to experience immortal pain that pain pills were not even touching. I went back to the ER some 10 days later with swollen legs. Luckily, the ER doctor this time was worried about blood clots, so she admitted me and the nightmare began. Come to find out, my white blood cell count was reading normal because I had taken steroids, but the pain was intense. The docs could not figure out what was wrong with me. Morphine was not touching the pain. To make a long story short, because I could go on and on, 6 months later I am finally in the road to recovery. It is not something to take lightly.