By Karla Simon, Industrial HygienistMay 31, 2012
Methicillin-Resistant Staphylococcus Aureus is a potentially dangerous type of staph bacteria that is resistant to certain antibiotics. It typically causes skin infection but can also affect the bloodstream, lungs, heart, bones and joints. MRSA is transmitted most frequently by direct skin-to-skin contact or contact with shared items or surfaces that have come into contact with someone else's infection (for example, towels, used bandages, equipment).
Am I at risk of getting MRSA from someone at work?
Some workplace settings have risk factors that make it easier to transmit MRSA. These factors, referred to as the 5 C's, are as follows:
• Frequent skin-to-skin contact
• Compromised skin (i.e., cuts or abrasions)
• Contaminated items and surfaces
• Lack of cleanliness
How can I prevent MRSA infections?
Practice good hygiene:
• Wash your hands thoroughly with soap and water or use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer. Shower immediately after working out on gym equipment.
• Cover your wound. Keep cuts and scrapes clean and covered with a bandage until healed.
• Do not touch. Avoid contact with other people's wounds or bandages.
• Do not share personal items. Avoid sharing personal items that touch bare skin such as towels, razors, uniforms and personal protective equipment.
What should I do if I think I have a MRSA infection?
See your healthcare provider and follow your healthcare provider's advice about returning to work.
I have MRSA, can I go to work?
Unless directed by a healthcare provider, employees with MRSA infections should not be routinely excluded from going to work. Exclusion from work should be reserved for those with wound drainage ("pus") that cannot be covered and contained with a clean, dry bandage and for those who cannot maintain good hygiene practices. Employees with active infections should be excluded from activities where skin-to-skin contact with the affected skin area is likely to occur until their infections are healed.
What should I do if I suspect that my uniform, clothing, personal protective equipment or workstation has become contaminated with MRSA?
Wash uniforms, clothing, sheets and towels that become soiled in a washing machine set to the hottest water setting (with added bleach, if possible). Dry the washed items in a hot dryer, rather than air-drying. Cleaning contaminated equipment and surfaces with detergent-based cleaners or Environmental Protection Agency-registered disinfectants is effective at removing MRSA from the environment. The EPA provides a list of EPA-registered products effective against MRSA.
For more information, please call 1-800-CDC-INFO or visit:
U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, http://www.cdc.gov/niosh/topics/mrsa/
Environmental Protection Agency, http://epa.gov/oppad001/chemregindex.htm