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MRSA and Cystic Fibrosis

This information can help answer questions that you may have about MRSA and cystic fibrosis (CF).

On this page:

What is MRSA?

MRSA stands for methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus. It can cause an infection on the skin and in the lungs. It is resistant to several common antibiotics.

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How is MRSA treated?

MRSA can be treated with some antibiotics, nose drops and other therapies. To find out more, talk with your CF care center about MRSA.

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Do people with CF get MRSA?

Anyone can get MRSA. Some people with CF have MRSA growing in their sputum.

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How does it affect people with CF?

It may worsen lung disease. A recent study, published in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA), looked at MRSA lung infections in people with CF. They concluded that having MRSA in your lungs for longer than 2 years might affect survival. However, there is much more to learned about MRSA, how it affects people with CF and the best treatment for a MRSA lung infection.

Talk to your CF care center to find out more.

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How do people get MRSA?

MRSA can spread from one person to another through casual contact or through contact with objects that have become covered with it.

If MRSA is in the lungs, it can be spread in tiny drops of liquid when a person coughs, sneezes or laughs, or on objects that touch the mouth.

If MRSA is on the skin, it can be spread through skin-to-skin contact with others, such as athletes involved in football or wrestling.

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How can I or my child avoid getting MRSA?

The best way to protect yourself from MRSA is to do the following.

  • Do good hand cleaning often (e.g., keep your hands clean by washing with soap and water or using an alcohol-based hand gel);
  • Cough into a tissue, throw it away and do good hand cleaning to prevent the spread of germs;
  • Avoid sharing personal items (e.g., drinking cups, nebulizers, toothbrushes, towels, razors) that come into contact with your mouth or bare skin.
  • Cover skin scrapes or cuts with a clean dry bandage until healed;
  • When using exercise equipment:
    • Clean handholds, bars, control panels, etc. before and after use with a disinfectant or alcohol based cleaner. Many exercise facilities provide materials so the exerciser can clean the equipment.
    • Use a barrier (e.g., clothing or a towel) between your skin and shared equipment such as weight-training benches.

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How do I know if I or my child has MRSA?

Your CF care center can tell you if you or your child has MRSA in the lungs. This is one of the germs that grow in the sputum culture done at your clinic visits.

Most skin infections are boils and abscesses and are not serious. However, infections that are more serious do occur and these may be caused by MRSA. If you have a skin infection that is not healing see your regular doctor for help.

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If I or my child has MRSA, how can I avoid spreading it?

Activities to avoid getting MRSA will help avoid spreading it. Good hand cleaning and coughing into a tissue and throwing it away in a covered trashcan are the key things to do to avoid MRSA.

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What is “good hand cleaning”?

Good hand cleaning means that you are using an alcohol-based hand sanitizer or washing with soap and water often to avoid getting or spreading germs. You should clean your hands:

  • After coughing or sneezing
  • After blowing your nose
  • Before eating
  • After going to the bathroom
  • Before and after breathing treatments
  • Before and after airway clearance
  • Before taking medicine
  • If your hands look dirty, use soap and water
  • After using common pens, handrails, grocery carts, exercise equipment, automated teller machines (ATMs)
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If my child’s school has MRSA, shouldn’t the school be closed?

No, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention states that in general, it is not necessary to close schools to "disinfect" them for MRSA. MRSA skin infections are spread mainly by skin-to-skin contact and touching surfaces that have come into contact with someone else's infection. This is why good hand cleaning is so important to avoid getting MRSA.

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If I or my child has MRSA, should I or my child stay home from work or school?

No, unless your doctor tells you to stay home. Doing good hand cleaning, coughing into a tissue, and throwing it away into a covered trashcan, can help avoid spreading MRSA.

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Should I notify the school if my child has MRSA?

Talk with your CF doctor and CF healthcare team about whether or not the school should be notified.

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Learn more about germs, how they spread and cystic fibrosis:

Learn More About MRSA

Visit the websites of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention or the National Library of Medicine:

Download this information as a PDF.

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Updated 11/07/13

The Cystic Fibrosis Foundation is an accredited charity of the Better Business Bureau.