The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has received inquiries about infections with antibiotic-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (including methicillin-resistant S. aureus [MRSA]) among persons who have no apparent contact with the health care system. The following fact sheet addresses some of the most frequently asked questions.
For additional resources and information, visit the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Web site.
What is Staphylococcus aureus (staph)?
Staphylococcus aureus, referred to simply as "staph," are bacteria commonly carried on the skin or in the nose of healthy people. Approximately 25 percent to 30 percent of the population is colonized (when bacteria are present, but not causing an infection) in the nose with staph bacteria. Sometimes staph can cause an infection. Staph bacteria are one of the most common causes of skin infections in the U.S. Most of these skin infections are minor (such as pimples and boils) and can be treated without antibiotics (also known as antimicrobials or antibacterials). However, staph bacteria can cause serious infections such as surgical wound infections, bloodstream infections, and pneumonia.
What is MRSA (methicillin resistant Staphylococcus aureus)?
Some staph bacteria are resistant to antibiotics. MRSA is a type of staph that is resistant to antibiotics called beta-lactams. These include methicillin and other more common antibiotics such as oxacillin, penicillin and amoxicillin. While 25 percent to 30 percent of the population is colonized with staph, approximately 1 percent is colonized with MRSA.
How can I prevent staph or MRSA skin infections?
Practice good hygiene:
1. Keep your hands clean by washing thoroughly with soap and water or using an alcohol-based hand sanitizer.
2. Keep cuts and scrapes clean and covered with a bandage until healed.
3. Avoid contact with other people's wounds or bandages.
4. Avoid sharing personal items such as towels or razors.