Staph Infection Facts

Since MRSA is just a resistant form of staph infection, knowing a little about staph infections can help you understand MRSA. Staph infections are contagious diseases caused by bacteria, and are most often recognized by the abscesses that they form.

Staph is one of the primary causes of infections starting in hospitals in the U.S., and is one of the deadliest of all disease-causing organisms. Staph can be found on the skin or in the nose of about a third of healthy people.

Usually Harmless

Staph is normally harmless, but if it is able to enter a wound and invade the body it can cause infections and even death. The groups most at risk are: newborns, breastfeeding women, people with weakened immune systems, drug users, and people whose skin is abnormal because of surgery or illness.

Staph can cause pus-filled pockets in the skin or deep in the body. If localized, there will be a ring of dead cells and bacteria, and the skin will feel warm. The abscesses can burst, allowing the pus to cause new infections. Sometimes, the staph infections will get into the blood system and infect other body organs.

The form of staph in MRSA is staphylococcus aureus. This version is very strong, able to survive extreme changes in temperature. As many as 40% of healthy people may carry a staph colony somewhere on their bodies and yet they may never get sick.

Found in Hospitals

S. Aureus can be found in hospitals, where it can infect patients that are there for surgeries or illness. It can cause a variety of infections from boils and inflammation to Toxic Shock Syndrome. S. Aureus can also cause: arthritis, bacteremia, pockets of pus under the skin, tissue inflammation, endocarditis, meningitis, osteomyelitis, and pneumonia.

There are several symptoms that can alert you to the presence of a staph infection. These include: pain or swelling around a cut or scraped area of skin; skin abscesses or boils; blistering, peeling, or scaling skin in infants and children; and, enlarged lymph nodes.

A doctor should be notified if: lymph nodes are swollen or tender; the area of damaged skin becomes painful, hot, or produces pus; a boil or pocket of pus on the face or spine; a sore boil or in the case of fever, chills, and red streaks radiating from the infection; and boils that keep coming back.

Your doctor will be able to diagnose a staph infection. Blood tests may show elevated white blood cell counts, and laboratory tests on pus, blood, and urine can show a presence of the bacteria. X-rays and ultrasounds can be used to identify internal abscesses.

If a staph infection is suspected, ask your doctor to do a culture on the bacteria. That way, your doctor will be able to identify if it is a regular staph infection or an MRSA infection. This will also determine the types of antibiotics that will be most effective at fighting your infection. Remember to follow all antibiotic dosing schedules properly and finish all antibiotic courses unless told otherwise by your doctor.