Incubation Period for MRSA
After a person has become infected with MRSA, it can take 1 to 10 days for signs and symptoms to appear. This time period between MRSA transmission and the beginning of symptoms is the MRSA incubation period. During this time, the bacteria begin to multiply within the affected area. Some people may be carriers of this infection (colonized), but do not display any symptoms of the infection. However, they are still at risk for infecting others and themselves.
When a person becomes infected with MRSA (methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus), the bacteria begin to multiply within the affected area. A person will not have any signs or symptoms during this time. After 1 to 10 days, on average, signs and/or symptoms of MRSA may appear. This period between MRSA transmission and the beginning of MRSA symptoms is called the "MRSA incubation period."
One of the characteristics of MRSA that makes it easier to spread is that not everyone who is infected with MRSA will have signs or symptoms of the illness. In this case, a person is said to be "colonized" with MRSA.
It is estimated that up to 7 percent of people in hospitals and up to 2 percent of people in the community are colonized with MRSA, either on the skin or within their nose (the two most common areas).
A person can become a MRSA carrier in a couple of different ways. Some of these ways include:
- Touching the skin of another individual who is colonized with MRSA or has an active MRSA infection
- Breathing the tiny droplets that are expelled during breathing, coughing, or sneezing
- Touching a contaminated surface.
Once colonized with MRSA, a person can remain a carrier of this infection from a few days or weeks, up to several years. During this time period, MRSA carriers are not only at increased risk for infecting others, but also themselves.
The process of spreading MRSA that occurs with carriers of this infection is the same that occurs with direct contact with an active infection. The difference being, in the case of colonization, it is not apparent to either the carrier or the person becoming infected that anything is wrong.