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Is it safe to visit someone with MRSA?
6 Replies
fibromite.u.k. - July 17

Hi, I have a problem. My father aged 90, is in hospital with a problem with his leg. He now has MRSA in the wound. I am not sure if I should visit him or not, given the fact that I have a low immune system. I have other problems as well as fibromyalgia. I asked my doctor about it and she said it would be ok to visit him. However, when I have looked it up on the net, it seems that it would not be a good idea as it says that everything he has touched will be covered in germs and that it can be caught just by touching the person with it and obviously he will want me to hug him. He has been put into an isolation ward. I wonder if anyone on here has had experience of visiting anyone with this or knows anything about it. It is such a worry, as obviously it is horrible to think of him in isolation and I can't visit. I just don't know what to do.


Fantod - July 17

In my opinion, I would say absolutely not for a couple of reasons. Hospitals are notorious for being dirty places. It is not just MRSA that you would have to be concerned about. Your immune system is really low and you have been constantly ill with a bad chest or something else. Given all of that, the doctor is crazy to say you can go and see your Dad. I think her sense of empathy got the best of common sense when she told you to go. And, try not to feel gulity for not going. It is in your own best interest which is what is most important.

Would it be possible for someone who is going to visit to take a short video of you with a cell phone or something so you can send a personal message to him? I think that would be a far safer option than going in person under the current circumstances.

I'm so sorry to hear about the new health problem with your Dad. What I don't want to hear about is a new health problem for you by going to see him. Stay home and stay safe. I'll will be thinking of both of you. Take care.


January - July 17

I agree with Fantod. DON'T GO.

MRSA is Methicillin Resistant Staphylococcus Aureus, which means it is a "staph infection" that does not respond to the usual antibiotic treatment. It is very hard to treat, and some people, once infected with it, become carriers - so they always have these germs on their bodies. People who get sick with it are often immunocompromised.

Standard hospital procedures state that an immunocompromised person (which I think you are) should not even be in the same room with a MRSA patient. Your father is in isolation for one reason - he is VERY contagious. In addition, HIS immune system is compromised, so you could possibly make him even sicker with whatever germs you are carrying. Stay away for your sake and for his.

I don't think your doctor fully understood the situation… or maybe wasn't thinking straight. I would hate to think your doctor is ignorant about germs! There is no way I would go in to visit, and certainly you should not be hugging a person with MRSA!! In addition, if I were you, I'd avoid the people who do visit him because they will be carrying germs out on their clothes and skin.

When I was a nursing student (decades ago) I was assigned to interview a woman in isolation with a regular staph infection (not MRSA). I was NOT allowed to touch her or her bed, and I had to stay several feet away from her. That's how contagious staph is. It can cause anything from skin infections to pneumonia to toxic shock.

So can you talk to your dad on the phone, or send him cards? Or a video like Fantod suggests? I'm sorry you have this difficult situation going on. But you won't be any good to him if you become ill.

If he becomes terribly ill, and you feel you simply must go see him, I would advise you to speak with a social worker at the hospital, explain the situation - usually they are very supportive. Then, you must ask to speak with the head nurse for Infection Control. There might be a way they could suit you up in sterile gown, gloves and mask and give you some guidelines for a visit. But please don't go in there unless it's an emergency, and don't go without proper medical assistance! For BOTH of you.

Praying your dad will recover. And you take care of yourself!


fibromite.u.k. - July 17

Thank you so much Fantad and Jan, your words are so caring and sensible. I have decided that I will not be visiting my Dad and neither will my husband or son, because of the risk to me. I rang the hospital to ask how he was and asked the nurse if she thought it was ok for me to go, and she said not to, especially as I am on antibiotics at present, am often on steroids and have immune system problems.

I feel more at rest about it now, with both of you and a nurse as well telling me not to go. The only thing is that when my Dad is over this, I obviously can't avoid him for ever and it worries me to think that he could be a carrier of it. The odd thing is that he has been in hospital before for an infection in the wound on his leg but he wasn't put into isolation then and we visited him. They didn't say he had MRSA at the time, but now they are saying that he has had it before.

A friend of mine mentioned today that once some old people get this it often comes back again and again. Do you think that means that MRSA will eventually get the better of them and they will pass away because of it? My Dad has many illnesses such as prostrate cancer and heart failure and is quite frail.

It is a good idea to suggest talking to him on the phone or sending in a video, but unfortunately he is too deaf to hear on the phone and is almost blind too. However, I will send in a hand-made card (I make my own) and hopefully a nurse will read it to him.

Once again thank-you for your fast and helpful replies.


Fantod - July 18

Considered a "silent epidemic" by some public health experts, antibiotic-resistant staph infections are a growing threat to public health.

Almost 1 percent of the U.S. population -- about 2 million people -- carry drug-resistant staph without symptoms. The medical name for the infection is methicillin-resistant staphylococcus aureus, or MRSA.

Here's what you need to know about MRSA:

What exactly is MRSA?

MRSA is a kind of bacteria that causes staph infections. Because it is resistant to many antibiotics, MRSA can be very difficult to treat, resulting in major infections and even death.

How does someone get MRSA?

There are two major classifications of MRSA, depending on the route of infection: The more common one is hospital-acquired MRSA, in which patients are infected during medical treatment, and the other is community-acquired MRSA, in which patients are infected during their normal daily routines.

MRSA can live just about anywhere, from medical equipment to grass in the park. The bacteria enter the body wherever they can find an opening, from minor cuts to inhalation through the mouth or nose. Testing positive for MRSA does not automatically mean that you are sick. Around 1 percent of the population is a MRSA carrier, meaning the carrier can spread the bacteria without necessarily becoming ill.

How common is MRSA?

MRSA is becoming a bigger problem both in hospitals and in the community. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recently reviewed the prevalence of MRSA in intensive care units and found a dramatic increase over time. In 1992, 36 percent of the S. aureus bacteria in ICUs were MRSA, but by 2003, that number rose to 64 percent.

Using data from 1999 and 2000, the CDC estimates that more than 125,000 people a year are hospitalized for MRSA infection. People over age 65 or living in the southern part of the United States are most likely to be affected.

What happens when someone becomes infected with MRSA?

Hospital-associated MRSA is generally more serious because it often occurs in people who have weakened immune systems because of age (very young or very old) or illness. These patients frequently acquire MRSA infections at surgical sites, where it can spread to the bloodstream and cause damage to such organs as the lungs and heart.

In otherwise healthy people, MRSA generally shows up as a skin infection. It can cause painful swellings and growths that may require surgery.

In rare instances, MRSA has been associated with "flesh eating" bacterial disease, in which tissue begins to decay rapidly upon infection. These patients can require amputation of an arm or leg to prevent the bacteria from spreading to other parts of the body.

How is MRSA treated?

MRSA is generally treated with some combination of antibiotics and surgery, depending on where the infection is. Although MRSA is resistant to some forms of antibiotics, it's not usually able to escape them all. The newer antibiotic vancomycin is often a current choice in treating MRSA, but the bacteria are now showing some signs of becoming resistant to this drug too.

Minor skin infections with MRSA may just be drained and cleaned.

How did MRSA become resistant to antibiotic treatment?

Bacteria generally start showing resistance fairly quickly to any medication that's designed to defeat them. Most often, a mutation in the bacteria allows it to survive the drug treatment, and these surviving bacteria create many more copies of themselves that are also resistant.

Scientists are trying to stay one step ahead of the bacteria by creating new drugs to defeat them. The public can help slow down bacterial resistance by not using any unnecessary antibiotic medications. For example, studies have shown that most cases of ear infection and bronchitis do not need to be treated with antibiotics. By refraining from antibiotic use in unnecessary situations, people help preserve the drugs' effectiveness for when they are truly needed.


mypain - September 1

My sister has Cronic Progessive MS and sometimes she has active MRSA. As long as you take the necessary precautions, garb up, gloves, face mask, you will be fine....


January - September 2

Just rereading this excellent post of Fantod's and I was reminded that another cause of antibiotic resistant bacteria is that people don't always FINISH the course of antibiotics. Here's why you need to take them ALL and not stop until they are all gone, as prescribed.

If the doctor tells you to take the meds for 10 days, and you feel better in 7 days and stop taking them… you often still have some weakened, but strong, bacteria lurking in your system. These bacteria would have been killed off if you had taken your antibiotics for the full ten days. But no, you stop early, so these guys are still alive, and although they are weak, they can still multiply and mutate as they do so. The ones that live through this process, with the new mutation making them immune to the antibiotic, are the bacteria that go on to become superbugs.



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