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Environmental Health - Methicillin-Resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA)

Methicillin - Resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) Main Menu

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Protection, Prevention, Treatment - Click on each link below for more information



Personal Protection

The skin is a wonderful protective shield and the body’s defenses will routinely take care of nearly all Staphylococcus attacks. Periodically, a more severe attack occurs and the body needs help in the form of scrubbing with soap and water or using other skin cleansers, including alcohol products. Even with good hygiene, infections can occur that require seeing a health care professional who may prescribe antibiotics.

3D image of skin layersWashing hands at a sink

As you might suspect, any damage to the skin increases the chances for Staphylococcus to cause an infection. As a result, any cut, puncture, or wound must be kept clean. Obviously, there are certain groups of people that are more likely to compromise their skin, whether it is by profession, hobbies, or sports. Tree trimmers, professional fishermen, and physical sports teams fall into this category of having more cuts, punctures and wounds. They need to be particularly careful in hygiene.

The surrounding environment is also a consideration. When linens, towels, razors, or other personal items are shared, precautions should be taken. Prisons and places of employment where bunks might be shared from shift to shift are examples of higher risk for passing on infection.

Inmate bunk beds in a jail setting

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Is swimming in the ocean safe?

Another section of this presentation addresses environmental exposure, including enjoying the beach. For now, you should know that the health department samples the beaches weekly and when tests show bacteria levels too high, an advisory is issued to the press. Such advisories normally occur during the winter months. When there are no advisories, it is all right to swim. However, if you have cuts or wounds at any time when swimming, you are more susceptible to infection.

Bathers standing in the ocean

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Protecting others

Disease happens. The key is to prevent passing a disease on. Interacting with persons with a staph infection is no cause for alarm when basic hygiene is practiced.

To ensure protection of others, here are some guidelines:

  • Keep all infections, especially those that are draining or are pus-filled, covered with clean, dry bandages.
  • Wash your hands frequently with soap and warm water. Individuals who may change your bandages should also wash their hands with soap and warm water. Alcohol based hand hygiene products are also good. These products are readily available in stores and can be carried in your pocket or purse.
  • Avoid sharing personal items, including towels, clothes, bedding, other linens and razors.
  • Wash linens and clothes with hot water and laundry detergent. Dry clothes in a hot dryer, rather than air-drying, this will help kill the bacteria.

Do not lance/cut open any skin infection/boil yourself, as this could cause further infection. Drainage and good wound care may be all that is needed to allow an infection to heal on its own, but a medical provider should be consulted for any skin infection or boil that appears to require incision and draining.

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1. Cleanse area thoroughly with soap and warm water, carefully washing away any dirt. Alcohol swabs or cleansing solutions are also recommended.
2. Apply direct pressure to wound until bleeding stops.
3. Put sterile bandage on wound.
4. If cut is deep, get to a doctor as quickly as possible.

MRSA on underside of foot

1. Wash thoroughly with soap and warm water or alcohol solution.
2. If it bleeds or oozes, bandage it to protect it from infection.

Washing hands at a sink

Signs of an infected wound
1. swelling
2. redness
3. pain
4. may cause fever
5. presence of pus

MRSA on top of wrist

1. Change bandages or dressings if damaged or soiled.
2. Wash hands frequently, especially after changing bandages.


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Page last updated: 06/25/13