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 Staff

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 health care facility can acquire MRSA.

» 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 persons who have not recently spent time (as a patient, volunteer or employee) in health care facilities, such as a hospital or nursing home.

» What is the clinical presentation of CA-MRSA?

CA-MRSA infections are usually skin infections 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..

» How is testing for CA-MRSA done?

Testing for CA-MRSA is done by a swab test. Sending a swab for Culture and Sensitivity will determine if the swab is positive for MRSA. It takes 2-3 days for results.

» Are CA-MRSA infections treatable?

Yes. CA-MRSA infections are most often treated drainage and good wound care. Sometimes antibiotics are needed. CA-MRSA is not killed by the usual antibiotics so alternative antibiotics maybe used. Drainage of skin boils or abscesses should only be done by a health care provider.

» How is CA-MRSA spread?

MRSA infections, including CA-MRSA are almost always spread by contact of hands with skin or wounds. 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.

» Has CA-MRSA been associated with certain populations?

In the past, CA-MRSA infections have been associated with particular populations with increased risk factors. Those risk factors may include;

    • People who have compromised skin integrity
    • People who live in crowded, close conditions: e.g. military barracks, correctional facilities or shelters 
    • People who have frequent direct skin to skin contact e.g. sports teams
    • People who are part of sports teams (e.g. football, fencing, wrestling)
    • Men who have sex with men. 

» The best way to prevent the spread of CA-MRSA to others is to …

  1. Wash your hands frequently with soap and water or an alcohol-based hand rub. Always wash your hands before and after providing care to your patient and always after changing a bandage or touching an infected wound. Advise your patient and his/her family to wash their hands frequently especially if they are changing the bandage.
  1. Cover your wound especially if the wound is draining pus. 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 or clothing, and anything else that may come in contact with the wound or open skin. Promptly wash any clothing or sheets that contain material from the wound.
  1.  If you play sports, wash all clothing and athletic equipment after use and avoid sharing any equipment that touches the direct skin of others.


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