How Long is MRSA Contagious?

By Andrea Helaine

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention MRSA (methicllin-resistant staphylococcus) is staph infection that is resistant to antibiotics. MRSA can be a fatal infection and commonly occurs in health care settings, including hospitals and nursing homes.

Who Is Infected with MRSA

Those with weakened immune systems are more susceptible to contracting MRSA. Staph infections of the skin begin as small red bumps and often look like a spider bite. Often left untreated in the early stages, the infection can become abscessed and require draining via surgery or a wound vac. MRSA normally only infects the skin, but if left untreated it can spread to bones, the bloodstream, heart and lungs, thereby becoming a life threatening infection.

Diagnosis

The diagnosis itself takes approximately 48 hours because of the length of time required for the bacteria to grow. However, a new blood test is available that provides results within several hours. Many hospitals are choosing to treat MRSA with vancomycin, which is used in the treatment against resistant strains, however this course of treatment is not always effective.

MRSA Incubation

When MRSA bacteria first begin multiply, no rash is visible on the skin and the patient will not have any symptoms. After one to 10 days, some signs or symptoms will begin to appear. However, not everyone who carries MRSA is symptomatic, which makes it difficult to keep it from spreading to others, even in a hospital setting. If MRSA is suspected or diagnosed, it is important to enforce isolation and have anyone who enters the room wear protective clothing, a mask, and gloves. MRSA is highly contagious and can be spread between individuals via skin-to-skin contact, shared items, such as towels or cups, and common surfaces such as tables and counter tops. Some strains of MRSA are completely resistant to antibiotics.

Carrying MRSA

Once a person has MRSA, they remain a carrier and can put others at risk of contracting the disease. People can carry MRSA for days, weeks or even several years, during which time it is possible to have another infection or transmit it to others.

Reducing Risk of MRSA

There are ways to reduce the risk of transmitting MRSA, including washing items regularly with antibacterial agents, washing clothes separately and wearing a mask. Despite taking precautions, physicians often recommended that people who carry MRSA avoid others who may have a weakened immune system, including those with illnesses, children and the elderly.

References

About the Author

Andrea Helaine has a Bachelor of Philosophy in theology and is currently finishing her thesis course for a Master of Fine Arts in creative writing. Helaine has been writing professionally for over 10 years and has been published in several anthologies and is currently breaking into the screenwriting market.

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