Yes. MRSA is highly contagious and can be spread to other people through skin-to-skin contact. If one person in a family is infected with MRSA, the rest of the family may get it. MRSA is contagious whether a person is colonized or infected. †
The seriousness of MRSA infection is not related to how contagious the infection is; severe infections are not spread more easily than simple infections, and MRSA infections are not more contagious than staph infections caused by organisms that are still sensitive to most antibiotics.
A person is most contagious when infected wounds are open or have liquid drainage coming from them. MRSA tends to create a lot of pus, which is highly contagious. Staph and MRSA are passed most often through skin-to-skin contact with an infected person. It is also possible to get a Staph or MRSA infection from contact with items and surfaces that have been touched by someone who is infected (like a towel). Staph (including MRSA) can enter the body through cuts or scrapes in the skin.
Because MRSA is commonly transmitted from person to person by contaminated hands, the best way to stop the spread of contagious MRSA is thorough handwashing and good hygiene:
- Wash your hands often with soap and water—rub your hands together for at least 15 seconds and scrub between fingers and around nails.
- Wash your hands before and after you touch your eyes, nose, mouth, genitals, pimples, boils, sores or rashes.
- Use a hand gel with at least 60% alcohol to sanitize your hands if soap and water are not available.
- † Being colonized with MRSA means that the bacteria are present on or in the body, but do not cause illness. The MRSA bacteria are usually found either on the skin or in the nose of colonized people. Being infected with MRSA means that the bacteria cause the person to be sick. You can be contagious whether you are colonized or infected. [↩]