Education Materials

Mount Sinai Hospital is a University of Toronto patient care, teaching, and research centre.
Mount Sinai Hospital is a University of Toronto patient care, teaching, and research centre.

Frequently Asked Questions

FAQ: Community-Acquired MRSA Information For Patients

This document has been prepared for educational purposes by Allison McGeer, MD. Should you have questions regarding individual health concerns or health care practices, please consult your physician or health care provider directly.

» What is MRSA?

Staphylococcus aureus (S. aureus) is a bacteria that normally lives in the nose, rectum and on skin. Methicillin-resistant S. aureus (MRSA) is a type of S. aureus that is not killed by the usual antibiotics. People who have been in a hospital, rehab, or long-term care are more at risk of acquiring MRSA germs. However, sometimes people who have not had exposure to a healthcare facility can acquire the MRSA germ.

» What is Community-Acquired MRSA (CA-MRSA)?

Community-Acquired Methicillin-resistant S. aureus (CA-MRSA) is a type of MRSA infection that is acquired by people who have not recently spent time (as a patient, volunteer or employee) in healthcare facilities, such as a hospital or nursing home.

» How do I know if I have CA-MRSA?

CA-MRSA infections are usually in the form of a skin infection such as a boil or an abscess. The infection can start with a pimple or a cyst, and sometimes can be mistaken for a spider bite. The infected area will be red, swollen, warm, sometimes painful, and may or may not have pus or other drainage. A simple lab test can determine if an infection is caused by MRSA.

» How is testing for CA-MRSA done?

Testing for CA-MRSA is done by a swab test. A swab that looks like a long Q-tip is rubbed in the wound, collecting pus and bacteria. This swab is then sent to the lab. It takes about two to three days for results.

» Are CA-MRSA infections treatable?

Yes. CA-MRSA infections are most often treated with good wound care. Sometimes, antibiotics are needed. CA-MRSA is not killed by the usual antibiotics so alternative antibiotics may be used. It is important to follow up with your healthcare provider if your wound is not healing, or appears to be getting worse. Drainage of skin boils or abscesses should only be done by a health care provider.

» How is CA-MRSA spread?

CA-MRSA is almost always spread by skin contact. CA-MRSA does not spread through the air. You may also acquire CA-MRSA by using or touching contaminated towels or bandages. Washing your hands with soap and water or an alcohol-based hand rub is the best way to prevent the spread of MRSA.

» How to prevent the spread of CA-MRSA:

  1. Wash your hands frequently with soap and water or an alcohol-based hand rub at least five times a day and always after changing the bandage or touching the infected wound. Advise your family to wash their hands frequently, especially if they are assisting you with bandage changing.
  1. Cover your wound especially if it is draining pus. Follow your healthcare provider’s instructions on wound care. The pus or infected material that drains from the wound is where the MRSA is most heavily concentrated.
  1. Do not share personal items. Avoid sharing towels, face cloths, razors, clothing, or sports equipment especially if these items come in contact with damaged or open skin. Wash any clothing or sheets that contain material from the wound.
  1.  If you play sports, wash all clothing and athletic equipment after use. Do not share athletic equipment that touches the skin of others.
  1. See your healthcare provider if your wound is not healing or becoming more painful or if you develop other symptoms such as fever or vomiting.


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