MRSA (Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus)
Staphylococcus aureus (Staph infections), including MRSA, are skin infections caused by a bacteria which is commonly carried on the skin or in the nose of healthy people. About 25 to 30% of the U.S. population has staphylococcus on their bodies at any time. Many of these people have no symptoms of illness and show no signs of infection. Sometimes staph can cause an infection, usually seen as pimples, boils or other problems with the skin. These infections often contain pus, and may feel itchy and warm. Many minor skin infections usually go away without any special medical treatment. Occasionally, staph can cause infections that are more serious.
Staph is spread by direct skin-to-skin contact or by contact with items that have been touched by people with staph. Staph infections start when staph bacteria get into a cut, scrape or other break in the skin. Anyone with painful, swollen pimples, boils, and rashes should be very careful to avoid spreading the infection to others. Staph infections, including MRSA, can be treated with the right antibiotics.
How is MRSA different from staph? MRSA is a staph infection that is resistant to certain antibiotics. This doesn't mean that MRSA can't be treated, but that a specific antibiotic must be used for treatment to be effective. The only way to tell the difference between MRSA and other staph infections is with lab tests. These lab tests will also help your doctor decide which antibiotic should be used for treatment and if antibiotic treatment is necessary.
If you think you have a skin infection, keep the area clean and dry. If the area becomes painful, warm to the touch, or does not heal, see your doctor. Most skin infections, including MRSA, are treated by good wound and skin care. This means keeping the area clean and dry, washing your hands after caring for the area, carefully disposing of any bandages, and allowing your body to heal. If an antibiotic is prescribed, it is important to use the medication as directed on the prescription. If the infection has not improved within a few days after seeing your doctor, contact your doctor again.
There are ways to prevent a staph infection.
Regular hand washing is the best way to prevent getting and spreading staph, including MRSA. Keep your hands clean by washing them frequently with soap and warm water or use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer, especially after direct contact with another person's skin.
Keep cuts and scrapes clean and covered with a bandage until they have healed.
Avoid contact with other people's wounds or bandages.
Avoid sharing personal items such as towels, washcloths, etc. These items may transfer staph from one person to another.
Keep your skin healthy, and avoid getting dry, cracked skin, especially during the winter. Healthy skin helps to keep the staph on the surface of your skin from causing an infection underneath your skin.
Contact your doctor if you have a skin infection that does not improve.