Health conditions

Community associated MRSA (CA-MRSA)

  • MRSA is often associated with infection in hospitals, however, community-associated MRSA (known as CA-MRSA) often causes infections in healthy people living in the community, who have not been in hospital or had any medical procedures.
  • It can spread to others who are in close contact with a person who has CA-MRSA, especially those who live in the same household.
  • CA-MRSA usually causes skin infections, for example boils, that often occur again following initial treatment. Less commonly, it can cause serious infections like pneumonia and blood poisoning (septicaemia).
How is CA-MRSA spread?

MRSA is usually spread from person to person through contact with another person who is colonised or infected with MRSA.

It may also spread by having contact with items contaminated by a person with MRSA such as:

  • towels
  • wound dressings
  • touching surfaces that are contaminated with MRSA (such as door handles and taps).

It is not usually spread through the air.

What are the signs and symptoms of CA-MRSA infection?

People with skin infections may have:

  • redness
  • swelling
  • pain
  • heat
  • the presence of pus.

Sometimes the infection may look like an insect bite at the start. Symptoms of serious infection, which can be life-threatening and require urgent medical attention, may include:

  • feeling generally unwell
  • high fever
  • shivering
  • shortness of breath.
How is it treated?

Any infection caused by MRSA must be treated by a doctor, who should take a swab from the infected site to make sure the right antibiotics are given.

Remember, a lot of the usual antibiotics used for treating staph will not work for MRSA.

Once starting treatment, you should see improvement within 48 hours. If your infection does not get better, or if it worsens, you need to seek prompt medical attention.

Can you get rid of CA-MRSA?

Your doctor or nurse may talk to you about decolonisation, especially if you:

  • are having infections that occur more than once
  • are at risk of infection due to existing medical conditions such as diabetes, cancer or conditions that weaken your immune system
  • are planning to have an operation
  • are a healthcare worker or carer.

Decolonisation involves the use of an antiseptic body wash and nasal ointment for five days.

Currently, there is no vaccination available to prevent you from acquiring CA-MRSA.

How can you prevent the spread of CA-MRSA?

The pus from these infections is very infectious and increases the risk of spreading if your hands or other surfaces become contaminated. You should always:

  • wash your hands often with soap and water or use an alcohol-based hand sanitiser, especially after contact with your wound or dressing.
  • keep skin infections or wounds covered at all times until completely healed
  • maintain good personal hygiene, for example through regular bathing/showering and changing of clothing
  • wash bed linen and towels regularly, preferably using a hot wash and detergent
  • keep your home environment clean with regular cleaning and/or vacuuming.

Do not share personal items including clothing, towels, toothbrushes, razors, sports equipment.

If you follow this advice, the risk of spreading CA-MRSA to your friends, work colleagues and casual contacts is minimised.

I’ve got CA-MRSA. What about the people in my household?

Household contacts are people who live in your house on a regular basis.

CA-MRSA can spread easily to others in the same household. However, just because a person lives in your household does not mean they will get CA-MRSA.

Tell other people in your household that you have a CA-MRSA infection and share the following information with them:

They should discuss this information with their doctor, especially if they:

  • have a history of skin infections
  • are at risk of infection due to other medical conditions such as diabetes or cancer
  • are planning to have an operation.

If any of your household contacts are carers or healthcare workers, they need to discuss this with the infection prevention and control professional at their workplace.

You should inform your doctor if there have been repeated skin infections within your household.

What should I do if I need to go to hospital?

If you have a history of infection with any type of MRSA, you should let hospital staff know.

This will help them to provide the best care for you and ensure appropriate antibiotics are prescribed if required.

Where to get help


Acknowledgements

Public Health


This publication is provided for education and information purposes only. It is not a substitute for professional medical care. Information about a therapy, service, product or treatment does not imply endorsement and is not intended to replace advice from your healthcare professional. Readers should note that over time currency and completeness of the information may change. All users should seek advice from a qualified healthcare professional for a diagnosis and answers to their medical questions.

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