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MRSA: Methicillin Resistant Staphylococcus aureus

Download a printable version of the information on this page.

What is MRSA?

MRSA is a type of staphylococcus bacterium (a germ) that is resistant to many common antibiotics. It is not resistant to all antibiotics, however. Staphylococcus bacteria (or ‘staph’) often live on the skin or in the nose, without causing any health problems (this is called colonization). Most people who carry MRSA on their skin or in their nose do not get an infection, or get sick from it.

However, ‘staph’ bacteria (including MRSA) sometimes do cause infections, most often in skin, wounds, or in the lungs. Skin infections can cause redness, swelling, and pus to form. Lung infections can cause fever, cough and shortness of breath. Infections may need to be treated with antibiotics.

Who gets MRSA?

Sometimes children or youth who have been in hospital may get MRSA. MRSA is also becoming more common in otherwise healthy children, youth and adults who have not been in hospital.

How is MRSA spread?

MRSA is usually spread from person to person through touch. Someone with MRSA on his hands can pass it to others by touching them.

How can we prevent MRSA from spreading?

  • Cleaning your hands is the best way to prevent MRSA from speading to others. Wash your hands and your child’s hands with soap and water, or use an alcohol based hand sanitizer.
  • Keep open wounds, cuts or scrapes clean, and covered with a dry bandage.
  • Don’t share personal items that touch the skin, like towels, clothing, razors or sports equipment (like hockey or football pads).

Keep Hands Clean!

The best way to prevent MRSA (and other infections) from spreading to others is by cleaning your hands and your child’s hands.

Clean hands often:

• If they are dirty
• Before preparing or eating food 
• After blowing your nose
• After using the bathroom or changing a diaper
• After contact with body fluids
• After changing a bandage

Use soap and water or alcohol based hand sanitizer.
If you can see dirt on your hands (or your child’s hands), alcohol based hand sanitizers won’t work. You must wash with soap and water. 

What will MRSA mean for my child or teen’s hospital stay?

Your child or teen may need to be tested for MRSA when admitted to CHEO.

If children or teens test positive for MRSA:

  • They will not share a room with other patients and cannot leave their room (will be ‘isolated’)
  • Hospital staff will wear gowns and gloves when caring for patients with MRSA (‘contact precautions’)
  • We will notify your family doctor or paediatrician

Visiting a child or teen with MRSA at CHEO:

Before entering the child’s room, you must:

  1. Clean your hands with soap and water or alcohol based hand sanitizer for 15 seconds
  2. Put on a clean gown (gloves may also be needed)

Remember! Only parents or guardians may visit a patient in isolation. For more information, check our ‘What you need to know about Isolation’ fact sheet.

What will happen if my child has to come back to hospital or to a clinic?

If children or youth with MRSA must be re-admitted, they will again be isolated and placed on contact precautions. For clinic visits, special precautions are not needed, unless your child or teen has signs of an infection (for example, draining wounds, diarrhea, runny nose or cough).

What does MRSA mean for home and school life?

Children and youth with MRSA:

  • Can live normally and continue usual activities
  • Can play with friends, go to school and day care
  • Should not be excluded from any activity due to MRSA •
  • Must wash hands often
  • You do not have to tell the daycare or school about the MRSA, as special precautions aren’t needed in these settings. If you are concerned about yourself or other family members having MRSA, talk to your family doctor.

Want more info?

Check out IPAC Canada (Community and Hospital Infection Control Association) 

You’ll find fact sheets on MRSA in sports settings and schools.

Ottawa Public Health 

Numbers to know

  • Ottawa Public Health Info Line 613-580-OPHI (6744)
  • Toll free: 1-866-426-8885  
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