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MRSA Infection (cont.)

Is MRSA Contagious?

MRSA is contagious both directly (by person-to-person contact) and indirectly (when a contaminated person touches objects such as towels, toys or other surfaces and leaves MRSA bacteria that can be transferred to uninfected individuals). Some MRSA bacteria may survive for weeks on surfaces like doorknobs, towels, furniture, and many other items. Although MRSA bacteria can be included in secretion droplets put forth by infected individuals, direct contact is the usual way MRSA bacteria spread (are transmitted) to others. The incubation period for MRSA varies from about 1 to 10 days; the contagious period may include the incubation period and the time it takes to eliminate an individual’s MRSA infection. Some individuals that are carriers of MRSA bacteria may be weakly contagious (meaning it is possible, but far less likely to transmit MRSA to others than people with active infection) as long as they carry the bacteria.

What Are MRSA Infection Risk Factors?

Risk factors for getting MRSA include playing contact sports, sharing towels or other personal items, having any condition that suppresses immune system function (for example, HIV, cancer, or chemotherapy), unsanitary or crowded living conditions (dormitories or military barracks), being a health care worker, and young or old age. Almost anything that leads to breaks in the skin (for example, scratches, abrasions, or punctures) will increase infection risk. MRSA carriers (people colonized by MRSA bacteria but who are not symptomatic) can pass the bacteria without knowing it. Hospitalized patients are at risk of having health care workers accidently transfer MRSA between patients. Unfortunately, hospitalized patients usually have sites (for example, IV lines, surgical incision sites) that are easily contaminated with MRSA. Consequently, direct contact with MRSA organisms on surfaces or on infected people are the highest risk factors for getting MRSA infections.

Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 1/20/2016

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