MRSA or Antibiotic-resistant Staph Infection
MRSA has been with us for several decades. It is not a new infection. It is not a superbug, and is usually treatable by drainage of boils and with readily available antibiotics. The news is that it is more prevalent in communities than previously thought, and that healthcare professionals need to carefully choose their antibiotics.
What is Staph (Staphylococcus aureus)?
Staphylococcus aureus, often referred to simply as "staph," are bacteria commonly carried on the skin or in the nose of healthy people. Approximately 25% to 30% of the population is colonized (when bacteria are present, but not causing an infection) in the nose with staph bacteria. Sometimes, staph can cause an infection. Staph bacteria are one of the most common causes of skin infections in the United States. Most of these skin infections are minor (such as pimples and boils) and can be treated without antibiotics (also known as antimicrobials or antibacterials). However, staph bacteria also can cause serious infections (such as surgical wound infections, bloodstream infections, and pneumonia).
What is MRSA (methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus)?
Some staph bacteria are resistant to antibiotics. MRSA is a type of staph that is resistant to antibiotics called beta-lactams. Beta-lactam antibiotics include methicillin and other more common antibiotics such as oxacillin, penicillin and amoxicillin. While 25% to 30% of the population is colonized with staph, approximately 1% is colonized with MRSA.
Who gets staph or MRSA infections?
Staph infections, including MRSA, occur most frequently among persons in hospitals and healthcare facilities (such as nursing homes and dialysis centers) who have weakened immune systems. These healthcare-associated staph infections include surgical wound infections, urinary tract infections, bloodstream infections, and pneumonia.
What is community-associated MRSA (CA-MRSA)?
Staph and MRSA can also cause illness in persons outside of hospitals and healthcare facilities. MRSA infections that are acquired by persons who have not been recently (within the past year) hospitalized or had a medical procedure (such as dialysis, surgery, catheters) are know as CA-MRSA infections. Staph or MRSA infections in the community are usually manifested as skin infections, such as pimples and boils, and occur in otherwise healthy people.
What are potential signs and symptoms of MRSA?
It is important to note that it is rare for any staph infection to become life threatening in a healthy person. While resistant to penicillin and penicillin-related antibiotics, most CA-MRSA infection treatment is successful with common alternative antibiotics, such as trimethoprim-sulfamethoxazole, clindamycin, tetracycline, and few others. If your doctor prescribes antibiotics, be sure to take the full course of treatment.
What are some symptoms of a staph skin infection?
- Red bump that may be pus filled (sometimes mistaken for a spider bite)
- Swollen, red, tender skin lesions
If your doctor diagnoses you with a staph infection and you continue to experience these symptoms for more than a couple days, the infection may be a CA-MRSA infection. Signs that you may have a CA-MRSA infection include having the above symptoms coupled with:
- Little to no improvement with antibiotics after 2–3 days
- Rapid spread of the infection
- A previous infection with CA-MRSA
CDC Information on MRSA
If someone has MRSA on their skin, are they at higher risk for getting MRSA-related complications with influenza?
The overall risk of developing an MRSA infection after influenza appears to be very low. However, CDC continues to work with state and local public health authorities to better understand this association.
What is being done about MRSA infections associated with influenza?
CDC is working with state and local public health authorities to monitor and investigate infections with MRSA, including pneumonias and other types of MRSA infections that occur in patients with influenza. CDC also acts as a technical advisor to state and local health departments and various professional organizations that are working to control MRSA.
What is the best prevention to avoid spreading MRSA ?
Because CA-MRSA can be passed to others, it is important to follow these prevention tips:
- As a general rule, always maintain good hand-washing habits. This means washing with an antibacterial soap for at least 20 seconds while rubbing your hands together.
- Do not squeeze or attempt to drain any sore.
- Keep any wound covered and clean until it has fully healed.
- Avoid contact with others' wounds or bandages.
- Do not share personal items such as towels, razors, athletic equipment, sheets, clothes, etc.
- If you or a household member has a wound, wash your laundry in hot, soapy water, with bleach if possible, and dry these items in a hot dryer.
To speak directly with a WWU Student Health Center provider, call 360-650-3400 and select the "consulting nurse" option.