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Can staph and MRSA infections be spread by people touching and rubbing their noses?

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General & Family Physician
Practicing since : 2005
Answered : 436 Questions
I have been reading about staph a and mrsa infections and have found that the a large proportion of the community can carry this organism in their nose or skin without symptoms. The recommendations for preventing an infection as well as the spread is wash your hands frequently. Seeing it is a bacteria which is spread by hands touching surfaces how often is frequent, as it seems that you would be picking it up everywhere all the time. As it is predominantly in the nose should individuals be washing their hands after rubbing or touching their noses, as most do it without even realiizing they have done it ( even health professionals are guilty of this). I have mentioned this to my family and they think I am overreacting and they have never heard this recommendation. I know the usual hygiene recommendations and they seem reasonable, but to tell people it is everywhere how often is frequent as it seems you could pick it up quite soon after washing and risk either contracting the infection or being colonized by the bacteria and spreading it to others. Can it be spread simply by people touching and rubbing their noses, as I have only read that people who are infected or colonized should wash after touching their noses not the general community and anyone could be harbouring this germ in their nose and not aware of it. I realize that the skin has to be compromised, but I have also read that ca-mrsa does not need to penetrate the skin to infect and that it is quite virulent.
Posted Tue, 1 May 2012 in Infections
Answered by Dr. Radhika 2 hours later
Thanks for the query.
Methicillin resistant Staphylococcus aureus refers to a strain of staphylococcus aureus which is resistant to an antibiotic, methicillin. These bacteria have been found to be resistant to many other antibiotics and this is the reason that there is a lot of hype around this.
I would like to re-emphasize that for someone to contract any infection, the right kind of environment must exist for the organism. Our skin harbours thousands of organisms but they do not infect us as our defence mechanisms protect us from these. It is when these mechanisms are breached, that a problem can arise. Theoretically, people with MRSA in their noses can spread to this organisms to others but the defence mechanisms would need to be breached for you to be infected.

You could acquire the infection i in the following circumstances:
•     There is close skin-to-skin contact with an infected person
•     There are openings in the skin such as cuts or abrasions
•     Contaminated items and surfaces
•     Crowded living conditions and poor hygiene
•     If you are a patient in a healthcare setting
•     If you are a visitor of a patient

As of now, this is how you can prevent MRSA infections:
1.     Keep your hands clean by washing thoroughly with soap and water or using an alcohol-based hand rub.
2.     Keep cuts and scrapes clean and covered with a bandage until healed.
3.     Avoid contact with other people’s wounds or bandages.
4.     Avoid sharing personal items such as towels or razors.
5.     Shower immediately after exercise. Don't share items that touch your bare skin — such as bar soap, razors or towels.

These are the measures that people with MRSA infections should follow to prevent spread to others
1.     Cover their wounds
2.     Clean your hands.
3.     Do not share personal items.
4.     Maintain a clean environment

Hope I have answered your query. Please accept my answer if you have no follow ups.

Above answer was peer-reviewed by
Follow-up: Can staph and MRSA infections be spread by people touching and rubbing their noses? 18 hours later
I realize that a close contact with an infected person could spread the infection . What I am worried about is being colonized without infection and passing the bacteria to others who could in turn become infected with a serious infection. I feel responsible for passing on the infection. If it is part of your body flora how would you know when it was washed off, as it would be on your body all the time. I am worried about being colonized and passing it on to others.
Answered by Dr. Radhika 4 hours later
Thanks for the follow up.
If you are a carrier, you can pass the infection to others without being infected. But if you follow all the preventive measures mentioned above (especially the ones which describe what people with MRSA infection should do to prevent spread to others), you will not spread this infection to others. Further, even if they are colonized, their own defence mechanisms will prevent them from developing the disease.

To re-emphasize, maintaining good hygiene, covering your wounds and not sharing personal items are key to preventing the spread.

Additionally, there are a few other points which I would like to emphasize:
a.     Always complete a course of antibiotics, if one has been prescribed by your physician. Leaving the course in the middle increases the chances of emergence of resistant organisms.
b.     Have a well balanced, nutritious diet.
c.     Exercise regularly
d.     Vitamin C has been shown to improve immunity. Take plenty of citrus fruits to increase you immunity levels.
Hope I have answered your query. Please accept my answer if you have no follow ups.

Above answer was peer-reviewed by
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