Massachusetts Department of Public Health November 2007
QUESTIONS FOR PARENTS AND STUDENTS ABOUT Methicillin-resistant
What is MRSA?
Staphylococcus aureus (“staph”) are bacteria commonly
carried on the skin or in the nose of healthy people. About 25-30%
of the U.S. population carries staph on their bodies at any time.
MRSA is a kind of staph that is resistant to some kinds of
How is MRSA
Staph, including MRSA, are spread by
direct skin-to-skin contact, such as shaking hands, wrestling, or
other direct contact with the skin of another person. Staph are
also spread by contact with items that have been touched by people
with staph, like towels shared after bathing and drying off, or
shared athletic equipment in the gym or on the field.
Most people who have
staph or MRSA on their skin do not have infections or illness
caused by staph. These people are “colonized” with staph. Staph
infections start when staph get into a
cut, scrape or other break in the skin. People who have skin
infections should be very careful to avoid spreading their
infection to others.
the symptoms of an infection caused by MRSA?
MRSA is a type of staph, so the symptoms of a MRSA infection and
the symptoms of an infection due to other staph are the same.
Pimples, rashes, pus-filled boils especially when warm, painful,
red or swollen can indicate a staph skin infection. Impetigo is
one example of a skin infection that can be caused by staph,
including MRSA. Staph, including MRSA, can also cause more serious
infection, such as severe skin infection, surgical wound
infections, bloodstream infections and pneumonia. Symptoms could
include high fever, swelling, heat and pain around a wound,
headache, and fatigue.
MRSA infections treated?
Most MRSA infections are treated by good wound and skin care:
keeping the area clean and dry, washing hands after caring for the
area, carefully disposing of any bandages, and allowing the body
to heal. Sometimes treatment requires the use of antibiotics. If
antibiotics are needed, it is important to use the medication as
directed unless a healthcare provider says to stop. If the
infection has not improved within a few days after seeing the
healthcare provider, the athlete should contact the provider
Why is MRSA
a problem for school athletes?
In Massachusetts and elsewhere throughout the country, MRSA
infections are becoming more common in community settings,
including schools and among athletes. Since staph (including MRSA)
are spread by direct contact (and on athletic teams), there are
many opportunities for direct contact among athletes. Since 2002,
school athletic teams in several states, including Massachusetts,
have reported MRSA infections among wrestling, volleyball, and
most frequently, football teams. Some colleges have reported MRSA
infection cases in residential dormitories.
Department of Public Health November 2007
How can MRSA
infection among school athletes be prevented?
hygiene is the best way to prevent getting and spreading MRSA
infections and many other infections. Encourage athletes to:
• Shower with
soap and water as soon as possible after direct contact sports,
and use a clean, dry towel.
• Keep hands
clean by washing them frequently with soap and warm water or use
an alcohol-based hand sanitizer gel.
• Keep cuts and
scrapes clean and covered with a bandage until healed.
• Avoid contact
with other people’s wounds or bandages.
• Not share
towels (even on the sidelines at a game), soap, razors, or other
personal care items.
• Not share
ointments or antibiotics.
• Wash towels,
uniforms, scrimmage shirts, and any other laundry in hot water and
ordinary detergent, and dry on the hottest cycle after each use.
Inform parents of these precautions if laundry is sent home
(laundry must be in an impervious container or plastic bag for
whirlpools or common hot tubs, especially when having open wounds,
scrapes, or scratches.
• Inform their
coach or athletic trainer if they think they have a skin
Can students and
staff with MRSA attend school?
and staff with a MRSA infection can attend school regularly as
long as the wound is covered and they are receiving proper
treatment. Students and staff do not need to be isolated or sent
home in the middle of the day if a suspected staph or MRSA
infection is noticed. Wash the area with soap and water and cover
it lightly. Those who touch the wound should wash their hands
immediately. The student should be encouraged to have the wound
looked at by their healthcare provider as soon as possible to
confirm a MRSA infection and determine the best course of
treatment. The wound should be kept lightly covered until it has
and staff be notified if a student has a MRSA infection?
Typically, it is
not necessary to inform the entire school community about a MRSA
infection. When MRSA occurs within the school population, the
school nurse and school physician will determine, based on their
medical judgment, whether some or all parents and staff should be
be closed if students or staff have
It is not
necessary to close schools in response to cases of MRSA in
students or staff. Almost all transmission of the bacteria from
person to person is through skin to skin contact, such as occurs
among sports teams, not among students in classrooms. Sanitizing
shared exercise and other equipment with skin contact is a good
practice, but other environmental surfaces in community settings
do not need to be disinfected.
information about MRSA, visit the MDPH website at www.mass.gov/dph
or call the Division of Epidemiology & Immunization at
617-983-6800 or your local health department.