Is Mersa Contagious?

Bacteria That Causes Skin Infections

Little boy getting help using a hand sanitizer
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If you or someone you know has had Mersa, you may be wondering, is Mersa contagious?

What Is Mersa?

Mersa is another name for MRSA or Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus, a type of bacteria that can cause skin infections. Although once limited to people with weak immune systems in hospitals and nursing homes, they are increasingly being seen in healthy adults and children. MRSA infections are sometimes limited to simple pimple-like infections, but they can also become much larger abscesses and boils that need to be drained.

Unfortunately, MRSA infections can also lead to much more serious infections, including infections of the bloodstream (bacteremia and sepsis), bone infections and pneumonia.

Pseudomonas aeruginosa is another bacteria that can cause skin infections. It is most commonly associated with "hot tub rash," an itchy rash with painful red bumps and pimples around hair follicles, especially around a child's swimsuit. Fortunately, this low-grade infection usually goes away without treatment, although some children do require antibiotic treatment. This skin infection is not usually thought to be contagious.

Pseudomonas aeruginosa can be found in contaminated swimming pools and lakes, but kids are most likely to get a "hot tub rash" in a contaminated hot tub or spa.

Other infections that can be caused by Pseudomonas aeruginosa are swimmer's ear, bone infections, pneumonia, urinary tract infections, and meningitis. Except for swimmer's ear, these other more serious infections are usually only caused when a child has another underlying medical problem, such as diabetes or cystic fibrosis.

Diagnosing MRSA

Doctors diagnose MRSA by checking a tissue sample or nasal secretions for signs of drug-resistant bacteria. The sample is sent to a lab where it's placed in a dish of nutrients that encourage bacterial growth. But because it takes about 48 hours for the bacteria to grow, newer tests that can detect staph DNA in a matter of hours are now becoming more widely available.

Treating MRSA

Both healthcare-associated and community-associated strains of MRSA still respond to certain antibiotics. In some cases, antibiotics may not be necessary. For example, doctors may drain a superficial abscess caused by MRSA rather than treat the infection with drugs.

Is MRSA Contagious?

As most people are well aware, MRSA skin infections are very contagious. In addition to keeping a child's MRSA infection covered, it is important to see your pediatrician so that it can be properly treated. If the wound is draining and can't be completely covered, then the child should likely be excluded from sports, so that he doesn't infect other children.

Also, it is important to wash the child's clothing, towels and bedding in hot water.

To help prevent other kids from getting MRSA, it can help if they:

  • Wash their hands frequently.
  • Shower daily and again after exercise.
  • Cover all insect bites, sores, cuts, and abrasions.
  • Don't share personal items with other people, including towels, clothing, washcloths, and razors.
  • Clean and/or cover exercise equipment at school and at the gym before and after using them.
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