Is MRSA infection contagious? It can spread from person to person in a variety of ways - but most often via skin to skin contact and especially via the hands. MRSA is a highly drug resistant variety of the very common staphylococcus aureus (SA) bacteria.
SA is found on the skin of over 30% of people and is believed to be carried by as many as 80% of people at some point in their lives. MRSA is rarer - 1.5% are thought to carry it, but in some populations this can be as high as 10% and it seems likely to grow. SA can also make you as ill as MRSA, but SA is easier to treat as more drugs are effective against it.
How long is MRSA contagious?
The bacteria can survive for several months on surfaces and unlike viruses does not need a 'host' to survive. If you or a friend have MRSA you or they can be contagious in the following ways:
MRSA is often found in the nose but is also common around the armpits and groin area. We can shed bacteria from our skin onto any surface we touch. This may be of little impact unless we are already quite ill and stationary in which case the bacteria can become concentrated around us and potentially be picked up by those caring for us.
MRSA Infection Clouds
Those carrying MRSA in their noses can expel MRSA bacteria during colds,flu and other respitory infections, mainly via sneezing. This can in turn cause contamination.
We may therefore therefore contaminate surfaces. When these are high touch surfaces such as door handles, computer keyboards and the like, the bacteria can transfer to people's hands and then travel to other parts of their bodies or to the skin of others.
MRSA Household Contagion
Familes may sometimes share household items such as combs, hairbrushes and towels. These are high touch items that can help spread infection.
MRSA Transient Carriers
Nurses, doctors or friends can become transient carriers. They may shed the bacteria later that day via washing or whatever but have carried it another patient or high touch surface. Other transient carriers can include family pets - these may be the source of reinfection in many families.
MRSA High Touch Actvities
Contact sports and sexual activity involving nakedness can be often be another means via which MRSA (or SA) can be transmitted to the skin of another.
MRSA Contagious? What can you do?
Because SA and MRSA are so common it is impractible to suggest that social distancing may protect a family or individual. Negative attitudes to MRSA positive people will not help them cope with their illness. The best responses to the possibility of MRSA contagion include a strong emphasis on hand hygiene as this is the most common way it moves between people. Washing hands 3-5 times a day and after contact with a known MRSA carrier will eradicate a large part of the risk.
It should also be noted that many will carry MRSA and never be ill.