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What is MRSA?

Meticillin (previously known as methicillin) is a type of penicillin, an antibiotic that is used to treat infections. MRSA stands for meticillin (M) resistant (R) Staphylococcus (S) aureus (A). MRSA is a type of Staphylococcus aureus that has developed resistance to meticillin and some other antibiotics used to treat common infections. Some people carry MRSA on their skin or in their nostrils quite harmlessly. Some people carry MRSA for just a few hours or days, but other people carry MRSA for weeks or months.

MRSA and other types of Staphylococcus aureus can cause local skin infections such as boils and, in more vulnerable patients; they can cause more serious infections in wounds, bones, lungs and blood (bloodstream infections).

How do you know if someone has MRSA?

People who carry MRSA do not look or feel different from anyone else. MRSA does not harm them and they have no symptoms of infection. Patients who have an infection may develop signs and symptoms, such as a high temperature or a fever. An infected wound may become red and sore and discharge pus. Many different germs can cause these signs and symptoms. Laboratory tests can show whether MRSA or other germs are the cause.

How does MRSA spread?

If people have MRSA on their hands, they can transfer it to people and objects that they touch. Other people can then pick it up on their hands and pass it on to others.

How do ambulance staff stop MRSA spreading?

Ambulance staff take special precautions with patients who have MRSA in order to stop it spreading to other people.

Simple hygiene measures reduce the risk of spreading MRSA:

  • Everyone should clean their hands before and after touching patients.
  • Hands can be cleaned with soap and water, moist hand wipes or alcohol hand rubs.
  • Staff will wear gloves and aprons when they care for a patient who has MRSA.
  • The area where the patient was sitting and any equipment used on the patient will be cleaned using biocidal wipes.
  • If linen is used, eg sheets or blankets, these items will be changed between patients.

Does a patient with MRSA have to be transported on their own?

Patients who have MRSA may be transported on their own but will usually be transported with others.

Further information is available from the Health Protection Agency website.