Methicillin Resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) is a bacteria (germ) that can’t be treated by common antibiotics because it is resistant to them. MRSA can cause skin infections such as abscesses and boils, and can infect wounds, cause pneumonia or infections in the blood or bone.
Some strains of MRSA can occur in the community or in otherwise healthy people; these are referred to as community-acquired MRSA. Some strains of MRSA are found in people who have had treatment in hospital or other health care. Children can have MRSA on their body or MRSA infections without ever having been in hospital.
Who is at an increased risk of getting an MRSA infection?
Children in hospital who:
- Have other health conditions that make them sick.
- Have been in a hospital or care facility before.
- Have been treated with antibiotics before.
In the community, the children at greatest risk of having MRSA are often in places where frequent skin contact occurs, such as schools, dormitories, child care centres and sports facilities.
Children with other medical conditions including diabetes, dermatitis or who are immunosuppressed are also at increased risk.
How do you get an MRSA infection?
Children who have MRSA on their skin or are infected with MRSA may be able to spread the bacteria.
MRSA can be passed on to others by the hands of healthcare workers, visitors, carers, children or by MRSA on equipment such as bed and cot rails, medical equipment, door handles and bathroom fixtures.
How can you prevent the spread of MRSA?
- The most important thing you can do to prevent the spread of MRSA is to frequently clean your hands and your child’s hands. You can use an alcohol-based hand rub or wash your hands with soap and water then dry them thoroughly.
- Avoid touching the part of your child’s body that may have MRSA present.
- Follow instructions on how to manage any wounds or devices.
- Your child should have their own towels, clothes and bed sheets.
- Your child should have their own grooming items such as nail scissors, tweezers and toothbrushes.
Don’t let them share these items with others.
- All eating utensils, dishes, clothing and linen can be washed as normal.
When should you clean your hands?
Always clean hands:
- before handling anything that goes in your mouth or your child’s mouth.
- before preparing or eating food or drinks.
- before leaving your child’s room.
- after going to the toilet or changing nappies.
- after using a tissue or handkerchief.
- after handling rubbish.
- after handling dirty washing.
- after coming into contact with an affected area (avoid touching wherever possible).
What happens if your child has MRSA?
- A swab from their nose and/or any wounds or lesions on their skin, or samples of urine or sputum will be sent to a laboratory to check for MRSA.
- Your child may not be infected with MRSA. The bacteria may be living in or on their body without causing any harm. This is colonisation. In this case, they will not be treated unless their doctor thinks it is needed.
- Children who are colonised with MRSA do not usually have to stay longer in hospital.
- Children may be treated with antibiotics that kill MRSA if they have a local infection such as an infected wound, or if they have a serious infection. They may have to stay in hospital until it shows signs of improving or has resolved.
- Your child may be given an antiseptic body lotion and / or antibiotic cream if they have MRSA on their skin, hair or nose. This will depend on their use of antibiotics, and if they have wounds, skin conditions or drains / devices in place.
- Our staff will take special precautions to stop the spread of MRSA to other patients. Your child may be in a single room and staff will use gloves and gowns while caring for your child. Wearing the gloves and gowns helps prevent the spread of MRSA to other children in the hospital.
- Your child will be asked to stay in their room unless they are receiving tests and treatment.
If your child has MRSA can they have visitors?
Yes. However, MRSA can affect people who have certain long-term health problems. Please tell our nursing staff if someone who has a long-term health problem wants to visit your child. Your visitors will be asked to wash their hands after visiting your child so that they do not spread MRSA to others.
You and your visitors don’t usually need to wear gloves or gowns unless you or they will be visiting others in the hospital.
Your child can also receive visitors from the school and entertainment services if they are not able to leave their room or attend these areas in person. It may be suitable for you and your child to leave the hospital to visit the South Bank precinct or other areas.
What happens when you visit the hospital outpatient department or return to the hospital after discharge?
As there may be other children who are at high risk of infection, precautions may will still be put in place when you visit outpatient clinics or day units, come to the emergency department or are re-admitted to hospital. This may involve using a single room or allocating a time slot for appointments or procedures when there are fewer patients. Please let staff know that MRSA precautions are required. The hospital patient information system (our patient database) should also have a record of the need for MRSA precautions.
Do I have to tell my child’s school, pre-school/kindergarten or other parents?
No. The risk to others outside a hospital environment is very low. Other children may have MRSA but may not be aware of this. It can live in or on the body without causing any harm. Good hand cleaning is the most important factor in preventing spread.
Can MRSA be cleared?
Some children can be cleared of MRSA. This depends on the use of antibiotics, if they have any drains/tubes or devices and if they have any ongoing health conditions. Your health care worker or the infection control nurses will be able to advise you.
For more information
Patient information guides on MRSA are available from:
The National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC)
Australian Commission on Safety and Quality in Health Care
Infection Management and Prevention Service
Lady Cilento Children’s Hospital
501 Stanley Street, South Brisbane 4101
t: 07 3068 4145 (nurses)
t: 07 3068 1558 (administration)
t: 07 3068 1111 (general enquiries)