Staph Infection Prevention
Because staph infections are frequently spread through skin-to-skin contact, it's important not to touch the skin of another person who is colonized with staph bacteria or who has an active staph infection. Other ways to help prevent staph infections include washing your hands frequently and avoiding things that have come into contact with another person's infection, such as towels and bandages.
Staph infections are caused by Staphylococcus bacteria (see Staph Infection Causes). This group of bacteria has gained a lot of interest in the past several years because of methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA for short). This type of infection has gone from being a controllable condition to a serious public health concern.
Staph infections are most frequently spread by direct skin-to-skin contact with someone who has an active infection. They may also spread through contact with someone who is a carrier of the bacteria or by touching shared items or surfaces (such as a towel or used bandages) that have come into contact with someone else's infection.
Understanding how staph is spread will significantly help in preventing the infection (see Staph Transmission for more information). It is also helpful to understand the risk factors for this condition(see Staph Infection Risk Factors).
No vaccines or other medicines are available to prevent a staph infection. Prevention strategies, therefore, are focused on practicing good hygiene.
The following strategies can help prevent staph infections (including MRSA):
- Keep your hands clean by washing them thoroughly with soap and water. Scrub them briskly for at least 15 seconds, then dry them with a disposable towel and use another towel to turn off the faucet. When you don't have access to soap and water, carry a small bottle of hand sanitizer containing at least 62 percent alcohol.
- Always shower promptly after exercising.
- Keep cuts and scrapes clean and covered with a bandage until healed. Cover wounds that are draining or that have pus with clean, dry bandages. Follow your healthcare provider's instructions on proper care of the wound.
Pus from infected wounds can contain Staphylococcus aureus (S. aureus) and MRSA, so keeping the infection covered will help prevent the spread to others. Bandages or tape can be discarded with regular trash.
- Avoid contact with other people's wounds or bandages.
- Avoid sharing personal items, such as towels, washcloths, razors, clothes, or uniforms.
- In health clubs, wipe the surfaces of equipment before and after use. Also, use a barrier, such as clothing or a towel, between your skin and shared equipment.
- Wash soiled sheets, towels, and clothes with water and laundry detergent; use bleach and hot water if possible. Drying clothes in a hot dryer, rather than air-drying, also helps kill bacteria in clothes.
- Tell any healthcare providers if you currently have or have had an S. aureus or MRSA skin infection. If you have a skin infection that requires treatment, ask your healthcare provider if you should be tested for MRSA. Many healthcare providers prescribe drugs that are not effective against antibiotic-resistant staph, which delays treatment and creates more resistant germs.