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There are two major ways people become infected with MRSA. The first is physical contact with someone who is either infected or is a carrier (people who are not infected but are colonized with the bacteria on their body) of MRSA. The second way is for people to physically contact MRSA on any objects such as door handles, floors, sinks, or towels that have been touched by a MRSA-infected person or carrier. Normal skin tissue in people usually does not allow MRSA infection to develop; however, if there are cuts, abrasions, or other skin flaws such as psoriasis (a chronic inflammatory skin disease with dry patches, redness, and scaly skin), MRSA may proliferate. Many otherwise healthy individuals, especially children and young adults, do not notice small skin imperfections or scrapes and may be lax in taking precautions about skin contacts. This is the likely reason MRSA outbreaks occur in diverse types of people such as school team players (like football players or wrestlers), dormitory residents, and armed-services personnel in constant close contact.

People with higher risk of MRSA infection are those with obvious skin breaks (for example, patients with surgical or traumatic wounds or hospital patients with intravenous lines, burns, or skin ulcers) and people with depressed immune systems (infants, the elderly, or HIV-infected individuals) or those with chronic diseases (diabetes or cancer). People with pneumonia (lung infection) due to MRSA can transmit MRSA by airborne droplets. Health-care workers as a group are repeatedly exposed to MRSA-positive patients and can have a high rate of infection if precautions are not taken. Consequently, health-care workers and patient visitors should use disposable masks, gowns, and gloves when they enter the MRSA-infected patient's room.

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Archived: March 20, 2014

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