- Staph Infection
- Causes of staph infection
- Symptoms of staph infection
- Treatments for staph infection
- Interview Transcript
- Summit Medical Group Web Site
- Department of Health
- Bacterial Skin Infections: Impetigo and MRSA
- Methicillin-Resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA)
- Is MRSA Contagious? What You Should Know
- How Contagious is MRSA?
- Symptoms of CA-MRSA and HA-MRSA
- Importance of Cleaning, Sanitizing and Disinfecting
- Disinfect Contagions the Aftermath Way
- Surgical Treatment for Staphylococcal Infections
Causes of staph infection
Staph infections are caused by Staphylococcus aureus bacteria, which can live in your body for quite some time without causing harm. Occasionally, these bacteria may come into contact with a cut or other wound, causing an infection.
Staph infections spread easily to others via direct (skin-to-skin) infection or by touching objects and materials that have come into contact with the bacteria.
Staph infections affect more than 3 million Americans each year. Boils, food poisoning, cellulitis and toxic shock syndrome are diseases caused by Staphylococcus.
MRSA is a strain of staph most commonly found in hospital settings that is resistant to many antibiotics and more easily spreads to your bloodstream, joints and organs, causing serious health issues.
Risk factors for staph infection
Anyone can develop a staph infection. People at higher risk for developing staph include:
- Children in daycare — children can transfer infections between each other, children in daycare are exposed to more germs and have lower immunity built up to fight the infections.
- People with lowered immune systems — if you have cancer, diabetes or other chronic conditions that lower your immune system, you are at higher risk for developing a staph infection.
- People who frequent communal environments — locker rooms and shared bathrooms increase the risk of coming into contact with staph bacteria.
- Athletes — athletes who participate in sports with skin-to-skin contact (wrestling, basketball or football) are more at risk for developing a staph infection.
- Healthcare workers or healthcare patients — people who work in a healthcare environment or patients receiving care in a hospital or other facility are at greater risk of developing staph and complications from the infection.
Symptoms of staph infection
Symptoms of staph vary from a mild skin infection to life-threatening if it gets into the blood and affects the lining of the heart. Symptoms will differ based on the severity of the infection.
Boils are the most common type of staph infection. Symptoms of staph infections caused by skin abscesses or boils include:
- Pain and swelling at the affected area
- Pocket of pus that develops over a hair follicle
- Typically occurs in the groin or under the arms
- Large blisters that could ooze fluid
- Painful rash
Cellulitis is a skin infection in deeper layers of the skin typically caused by Staphlyococcus.
- Redness and swelling on the surface of the skin
- Sores or ulcers that ooze discharge (not in all cases)
Staphylococcal scalded skin syndrome
Staph infections can sometimes produce toxins that lead to staphylococcal scalded skin syndrome. This condition occurs in children and babies.
- Blisters — when the blisters break, the top layer of skin can peal to leave a surface looking like a burn
Food poisoning is often caused by staph bacteria. Symptoms of staph bacteria-induced food poisoning include:
- Low blood pressure
Septicemia (blood poisoning)
When staph enters the blood stream, it causes septicemia. Symptoms of septicemia include:
- Low blood pressure
- Bone and muscle aches
Toxic shock syndrome
Staph bacteria are linked to toxic shock syndrome through the use of tampons. Symptoms of toxic shock syndrome include:
- High fever
- Nausea and vomiting
- Abdominal pain
- Muscle aches
- Rash that resembles a sunburn
Diagnosis of staph infection
Mild staph infections can be diagnosed and treated by your primary care provider, who will ask you about your symptoms and examine any skin lesions.
In most cases, your provider will take a tissue sample and send it to a laboratory to confirm staph bacteria is present. If staph is suspected but there is no skin infection, blood work will be done to confirm diagnosis.
If the infection is severe, you may be sent to the emergency room. If staph is found in the bloodstream, you will be admitted to the hospital to be treated.
Treatments for staph infection
Staph requires an antibiotic treatment, varying based on the severity of the infection. Most cases of staph infection will be treated with oral antibiotics. Occasionally, an infected skin wound will need to be drained, which can be done in your primary care provider’s office.
Staph bacteria are becoming resistant to antibiotics. Methicillin resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) strains are challenging to treat and may need IV antibiotics and require hospitalization.
Recovery from staph infection
Each case of staph infection is different, but most often staph will resolve in 1-3 weeks. Once you complete your antibiotic treatment, you’ll no longer be contagious, but you should keep any skin infection clean and covered until it is completely gone.
Interviewer: Skin infections, when is it the time to go to the ER? We’ll talk about that next on The Scope.
Announcer: This is From the Frontlines with emergency room physician Dr. Troy Madsen on The Scope.
Interviewer: So here’s the situation. You’ve got this redness on your arm. It could be from maybe an ingrown, a cut, maybe an ingrown toe nail. Maybe it’s just redness on your arm that starts spreading and taking up more and more of your skin. It could be an infection. Should you go to the ER for that? Dr. Troy Madsen is an emergency room physician at University of Utah Health. First of all, I think it’s important to say that infections can be really serious. Like, we tend to forget how bad they can be because we’ve gotten really good at dealing with them.
Dr. Madsen: That’s exactly right. Infections are one of these things where you may look down, again, at your arm or your leg, you see some area of redness, you think, “Oh, it’s just going to get better.” But we often sort of take for granted that, yes, infections are easy to treat, they don’t kill people. But we certainly see cases in the ER of very serious infections. Oftentimes people who have put off going to the ER for whatever reason, where that infection grows, it’s a very serious infection, it then leads to sepsis or an infection into the blood stream, and sometimes can be a life-threatening thing.
Interviewer: So that type of an infection, would it ever get better just on its own? Like, if I see that red area on my arm and it starts to spread, and I’m like, “Well, I really don’t want to go to the ER. Maybe it’ll just get better.” Will it get better without treatment? Will my immune system fight it off?
Dr. Madsen: Usually not. The cases we see. . .
Dr. Madsen: Yes. It’s one of these things where once you get that bacterial infection that settles in there, say, in the arm or in the leg or wherever it is and for whatever reason, oftentimes I don’t have a great answer for why this infection started. It’s typically not going to get better without antibiotics. The exception to that might be if you have a little abscess, so like a little pocket of infection and maybe it starts to drain, that sort of thing once it drains may get better. But if that infection then spreads to the skin around that abscess where you start to get a lot more redness, it’s expanding, you see red streaks tracking up your arm, that can be a very serious thing and without at least starting some sort of antibiotic, whether it’s oral antibiotics or, in more serious cases, IV antibiotics, it’s really not going to get better.
Interviewer: ER or urgent care?
Dr. Madsen: If it’s the sort of thing where it’s just a local area of redness, maybe not bigger than, say, 3 or 4 inches long, you’re probably okay to go to an urgent care. They’ll prescribe some antibiotics. But if you’re having fevers with it, chills, you see streaks tracking up your arm, I would recommend going to the ER because those are cases where you may need some blood work, you may even need IV antibiotics and admission to the hospital.
Interviewer: Got you. So, if you have an infection and it continues to get bigger and bigger, it’s not going to get better on its own, you do need to go talk to somebody, otherwise it could be bad news.
Dr. Madsen: Exactly. Another thing to watch for with infection, there are cases you may have heard of flesh-eating bacteria. It’s a scary sounding thing. But there are cases of really serious infections that you need to get to an ER as quickly as possible. And these are infections usually in people who may have some immune system problems, maybe they have diabetes, maybe they have cancer where they’re on treatment for that.
But these are infections where it’s a very, very rapidly spreading infection, and you feel sick, and you may even push on that area of infection and it feels kind of crunchy, kind of a weird sort of feeling to it like there’s air under the skin. This is something that’s called necrotizing fasciitis, and this is something where you need to get to an ER as quickly as possible, as that it’s the sort of thing that often requires surgery. It’s rare, but we see it, something that’s worth mentioning with a rapidly spreading infection. So infections, something that may seem simple, but it’s not something to mess around with.
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Summit Medical Group Web Site
What is antibiotic-resistant staph infection?
Antibiotic-resistant staph infection is an infection caused by a type of bacteria that cannot be killed by many commonly used antibiotics. This makes it hard to treat and stop the infection. The bacteria causing these infections are a type of Staphylococcus bacteria. They are often simply called staph. A commonly used name for resistant staph bacteria is methicillin-resistant staphylococcus aureus, or MRSA (often pronounced as “mer-suh”).
Community-acquired MRSA is the name for the infection when it occurs in a person who has not been in a hospital, nursing home, or other healthcare facility, such as a dialysis center. When the infection occurs in someone who is in a healthcare facility, it’s called healthcare-acquired MRSA.
What is the cause?
Staph bacteria are a common cause of skin infections. Most of the skin infections are minor (such as pimples and boils) and heal on their own without antibiotics. However, sometimes the bacteria infect the blood, urinary tract, lungs, or surgical wounds and cause very serious illness. The widespread use of antibiotics has caused some of these bacteria to change and become resistant to antibiotics. This can make it hard to treat these serious infections.
Community-acquired MRSA (CA-MRSA) skin infections may spread from:
- Close skin-to-skin contact
- Openings in the skin, like cuts or scrapes
- Crowded living conditions
- Poor hygiene
- Sharing toys, towels, soap, or equipment, such as sports equipment (like football pads)
CA-MRSA infections seem to be quite contagious. One study found that if one person has the germ, there is a 30% chance that others in the family have it. However, they may not have infections from the germ. They may just have it on their skin or in their nose, where it can infect them if they get a cut. Or they may pass it on to someone else with a cut.
What are the symptoms?
When staph infects the skin, it may look like a pimple or boil.
Symptoms may include:
- Redness and swelling of the skin
- Pus or oozing or crusting of the infected area
If the infection gets inside the body, especially if it gets into the bloodstream, the symptoms can be more serious and very different, depending on where the infection is. Symptoms of may include:
- High fever
- Trouble breathing
- Very low blood pressure
- Loss of consciousness
The infection can lead to shock. If it is not treated or cannot be treated because the bacteria are resistant to all antibiotics, it may cause death.
How is it diagnosed?
Your healthcare provider will ask about your symptoms and medical history and examine you. If there is an outbreak of MRSA in the community, your provider will suspect that your infection may be MRSA. Pus from the infected wound will be tested to see if bacteria can be grown in the lab from the sample. If bacteria do grow in the lab, the bacteria will be tested to see which antibiotics can kill them.
How is it treated?
If you have a pimple or boil that is large or painful, your healthcare provider may drain the infected fluid from it by opening it with a sterile needle or scalpel. Drainage of skin boils or abscesses should be done only by a healthcare provider. Trying to treat open sores at home can cause serious health problems. It can also spread the infection.
Often antibiotics are not needed after the infection is drained. If an antibiotic is needed, the infection will be treated with the type of antibiotic that is most likely to kill the bacteria. If you are given an antibiotic, take all of the doses, even if the infection is getting better, unless your provider tells you to stop taking it. Not finishing your antibiotic may cause more resistant bacteria to develop. If your symptoms do not get better or they get worse over the next 2 to 3 days, call your healthcare provider.
If you are having any of the more serious symptoms listed above, you may need to go to the hospital. You will get your antibiotic treatment by vein through an IV (intravenous line) until you are well enough to finish your antibiotics at home. You may be in the hospital 1 to 3 days or for a week or two, depending on how sick you were when your infection was diagnosed.
If other people you know or live with get a similar infection, tell them to see their healthcare provider right away.
How can I take care of myself?
- If you have an open wound or rash, follow your healthcare provider’s instructions for taking care of your wound at home, including how to dispose of the dirty bandages.
- You may be told to use gloves when you are changing the bandage or dressing. You should wash your hands before putting the gloves on and after taking them off. Throw the gloves away. Use a new pair of gloves for each time you change a bandage or dressing.
- Ask your provider if you should be putting warm compresses on the infected area or soaking it. If you are doing compresses, be sure the cotton cloths or towels used for the compresses are kept separate from other laundry. They should be washed separately at the hottest temperature possible. If you are doing soaks, for example in the bathtub, the tub should be cleaned right after your soak.
- If you were given a prescription for antibiotics, be sure to get it filled right away. Follow the directions exactly. Take the medicine until it is completely gone. Do not stop taking it just because you feel better. If you do not finish the medicine, you may not completely get rid of the infection, and you may create more germs that are resistant to the medicine.
- Acetaminophen may help decrease your pain.
- Use separate towels for each family member, especially if someone has a rash. Consider single-use paper towels or hand wipes in the bathroom and kitchen; or change cloth hand towels every day. Do not share washcloths or towels in the bathroom or kitchen.
- If a family member develops a large pimple or crusty rash that does not heal within a day or two, they should see their healthcare provider to learn whether it needs treatment for MRSA. Treating such infections right away helps prevent serious infections and their spread in the community.
- Follow your healthcare provider’s instructions. Ask your provider:
- How and when you will hear your test results
- How long it will take to recover
- What activities you should avoid and when you can return to your normal activities
- How to take care of yourself at home
- What symptoms or problems you should watch for and what to do if you have them
- Make sure you know when you should come back for a checkup.
How can I help prevent CA-MRSA?
To help prevent skin infections, practice good hygiene:
- Keep your hands clean by washing them well with soap and water or using an alcohol-based hand sanitizer before you eat or drink, after you use the bathroom, and before and after you touch any wounds or rashes.
- Keep cuts and scrapes clean and covered with a clean, dry bandage until healed.
- Avoid contact with other people’s wounds or bandages.
- Don’t share personal items, such as towels or razors.
- Shower after you work out at the gym or on the playing field. If you use shared athletic equipment, such as helmets or pads, use a barrier, such as clothing or a towel, between your skin and the equipment. Wipe surfaces of equipment before and after use. See if you can find a way to use the same equipment with each practice rather than sharing.
It is also important to take antibiotics only when necessary for infections. Finish all antibiotics as prescribed by your healthcare provider. Don’t share antibiotics with other people, and don’t save them for another time.
To prevent spreading a staph infection to others, follow these steps:
- Cover your wound.
- When you change a dressing, put dirty tape, bandages and gloves in a sealed plastic bag.
- Clean your hands often, especially after each dressing change.
- Keep your nails clean and trimmed short.
- Don’t share personal items, like clothing or toiletries.
- Tell any providers who treat you that you have or had a staph or MRSA skin infection.
Department of Health
Bacterial Skin Infections: Impetigo and MRSA
What kinds of bacteria can cause contagious skin infections?
Certain bacteria commonly live on the skin of many people without causing harm. However, these bacteria can cause skin infections if they enter the body through cuts, open wounds, or other breaks in the skin. Symptoms may include redness, swelling, pain, or pus.
How serious are bacterial skin infections?
While many bacterial skin infections are mild and easily treatable, some can become very serious and even life threatening. In addition, some bacterial infections can be spread to others. This is why prevention is so important.
What are the two most common bacteria that cause skin infections?
- Group A Streptococcus (GAS), often called “strep.”
- Staphylococcus aureus, commonly called “staph.”
What is impetigo?
Impetigo is a common bacterial skin infection caused by Group A Streptococcus (GAS) or “strep.”
What is Group A Streptococcus (GAS)?
Group A Streptococcus (GAS) or “strep” is a common bacterium (bacterium is the singular form of the plural, bacteria) that is found on the skin or in the throat (“strep throat”). People can carry GAS and have no symptoms of illness or they may develop relatively mild skin infections, including impetigo.
How does impetigo spread?
Group A Streptococcus (GAS) or “strep” can be transmitted through direct person-to-person contact with someone who has the infection. GAS can also be picked up indirectly through contact with an item (such as a wrestling mat, gear, towel, razor, or cell phone) that is contaminated with the bacterium.
What are the symptoms of impetigo?
- Symptoms usually began 1-3 days after infection.
- Sores (lesions) begin as small red spots, usually on the face (especially around the nose and mouth), but can appear anywhere on the body.
- The sores are often itchy, but usually not painful.
- The sores develop into blisters that break open and ooze fluid — this fluid contains infectious bacteria that can infect others if they have contact with it.
- After a few days, the ruptured blisters form a flat, thick, honey-colored (yellowish-brown) crust that eventually disappears, leaving red marks that heal without scarring.
- There may be swollen glands (enlarged lymph nodes), but usually no fever.
What should athletes do if they think they have impetigo?
While mild cases of impetigo may be treated without seeing a health care provider, athletes are recommended to have a medical professional determine what type of infection they have, how to treat it, and if it is contagious. If the infection is contagious, athletes should not practice or compete until their medical provider clears them to return.
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Methicillin-Resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA)
What is Staphylococcus aureus?
Staphylococcus aureus (“staph”) is a bacterium that is carried on the skin or in the nose of approximately 25% to 30% of healthy people without causing infection — this is called colonization. Staph bacteria are one of the most common causes of skin infections in the U.S. Most of these skin infections are minor (such as pimples and boils), are not spread to others (not infectious), and usually can be treated without antibiotics. However, some staph bacteria are resistant to certain antibiotics — one type is called MRSA.
What is MRSA?
MRSA stands for methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus. MRSA is a staph bacterium that certain antibiotics in the penicillin family should be able to treat, but cannot. When the infection is resistant to the medication, it is called resistance. However, other non-penicillin antibiotics can effectively treat most MRSA infections.
MRSA Infection on Arm
What causes antibiotic resistance?
Most resistance to antibiotics develops from taking them improperly. Examples are:
- Incomplete use: Not finishing the entire antibiotic prescription (often because people start to feel better and stop taking the medication).
- Inappropriate use: Taking antibiotics for a viral infection (antibiotics do NOT treat viral infections such as colds or the flu).
- Unnecessary use: Taking antibiotics “just in case” (for example, taking them prior to a vacation or special event to try to prevent illness).
It is important to take prescription medication only when prescribed for you by a health professional and to take all the medicine even if you feel better before you have completed the prescription.
How serious is MRSA?
Although health care providers can treat most MRSA skin infections in their offices, MRSA can be very serious and even cause death. MRSA can cause pneumonia or severe infections of the blood, bones, surgical wounds, heart valves, and lungs. MRSA can be fatal if not identified and treated with effective antibiotics.
How does someone get MRSA infection?
Most often, MRSA is transmitted by direct skin-to-skin contact with someone who has the infection.
MRSA can be spread by indirect contact too (for example contact with a mat that has infected drainage on it or by sharing a towel or cell phone with someone who has MRSA). Because of this, never share personal hygiene and health items.
Where on the skin does MRSA appear and what are the symptoms?
MRSA infections commonly occur where there is a break in the skin (for example, a cut or wound), especially in areas covered by hair (for example, the beard area, back of the neck, armpit, groin, legs, or buttocks)
MRSA may look like a bump on the skin that may be red, swollen, warm to the touch, painful, filled with pus, or draining. The pus or drainage contains the infectious bacteria that can be spread to others. People with MRSA may have a fever.
MRSA Infection on Thigh
How is MRSA diagnosed and treated?
Depending on your symptoms, your health care provider may send a nasal swab or skin tissue specimen to a laboratory to identify the infection or confirm that you have MRSA.
Your health care provider may drain the pus from the lesion — do not do this yourself.
If you are prescribed an antibiotic, take it exactly as directed and take all of the medicine even if the infection improves or goes away before you have finished the entire prescription. If the infection does not begin to improve within a few days, contact your health care provider.
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Is MRSA Contagious? What You Should Know
Yes, MRSA is contagious. MRSA is a contagious staph infection that can spread from person to person through skin-to-skin contact or indirectly. MRSA stands for Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus, a contagious staph infection that can be spread from person to person One characteristic that makes MRSA a threat is its resistance to many antibiotics. This resistance to common antibiotics, including methicillin, is where Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus gets its name.
How Contagious is MRSA?
Is MRSA contagious? Because MRSA is spread through direct or indirect contact, it is possible to get MRSA by touching the skin of someone who is infected, or by touching surfaces or objects that have the bacteria on them. According to the Center for Disease Control (CDC), over 80,000 invasive MRSA infections occur every year, most commonly in people with weakened immune systems.
There are two types of MRSA infections:
- Health care-associated MRSA (HA-MRSA). The most common type of MRSA, health care-associated MRSA occurs in individuals who have recently stayed in health care facilities, including hospitals and nursing homes. According to the Mayo Clinic, most HA-MRSA infections are associated with surgeries or other invasive procedures.
- Community-associated MRSA (CA-MRSA). This type of MRSA can occur among healthy people, most commonly in child care workers and people who live in crowded quarters (such as college dormitories or prisons).
Symptoms of CA-MRSA and HA-MRSA
According to Healthline, the symptoms for the different strains of MRSA may vary.
The typical symptom for CA-MRSA are skin infections. “Areas that have increased body hair, such as the armpits or back of the neck, are more likely to be infected. Areas that have been cut, scratched, or rubbed are also vulnerable to infection because your biggest barrier to germs, your skin, has been damaged.
The infection usually causes a swollen, painful bump to form on the skin. The bump may resemble a spider bite or pimple. It often has a yellow or white center and a central head. This may often be surrounded by an area of redness and warmth, known as cellulitis. Pus and other fluids may drain from the affected area. Some people also experience a fever.”
For HA-MRSA, however, the symptoms can cause serious complications (for example, pneumonia, UTI (urinary tract infections), and sepsis. Contact your doctor immediately if you notice one or more of the following symptoms:
- Muscle ache(s)
- Shortness of breath
- Chest pains
Importance of Cleaning, Sanitizing and Disinfecting
Because MRSA is contagious, it is important to disinfect the home immediately after someone in your family is diagnosed. However, to thoroughly rid the site of MRSA-causing bacteria, a simple mop-and-bucket approach may not be enough.
Consider this: bacteria is microscopic, so even after cleaning, you cannot verify that all bacteria and viruses have been killed. In addition, contagious infections such as MRSA often require specialized equipment, disinfectants with infection-specific kill agents, and training. So, what should you do?
Disinfect Contagions the Aftermath Way
Hiring a bioremediation company can help ensure your home, business, or property is completely disinfected and safe to inhabit. Aftermath uses similar bloodborne pathogen cleaning techniques that health care facilities use to eradicate disease, and then tests all affected surfaces using ATP testing to detect whether or not any living organisms have survived the disinfecting process.
Whether you are concerned with cleaning after a contagious MRSA outbreak, a violent crime, accident, or an unattended death, Aftermath will ensure that your property is completely disinfected by a team of highly trained professionals. If you still have questions, refer to this list of frequently asked questions, and contact us today.
Surgical Treatment for Staphylococcal Infections
At NYU Langone, draining a wound is the main treatment for staph infections of the skin. This procedure involves using a sterile tool such as a needle, scalpel, or lancet to make a small incision in the skin. The doctor drains the pus that has collected there. Afterward, he or she covers the area with a thin layer of gauze and a sterile dressing.
If the staph infection is deep inside a wound, a doctor may use a procedure called debridement to remove contaminated tissue. Before the procedure, the area around the wound may be numbed with a local anesthetic, and you may be given a sedative. The skin surrounding the wound is cleaned and disinfected, and the doctor removes any dead tissue. The wound is washed thoroughly. After the procedure, you can go home. If you are already in the hospital, this procedure is not likely to extend your stay.
If a staph infection is located at the site of a device or prosthetic, such as an intravenous line or a pacemaker, the doctor may need to remove the device. Surgery may be required to remove the prosthetic or device and clean the infected area.
If a joint implant becomes infected, doctors may remove the prosthetic joint and insert an antibiotic spacer in its place. This device maintains the joint space and alignment and provides comfort and mobility while the infection is being treated. After the staph infection is gone, surgeons remove the spacer and implant a new prosthetic joint.
Infection in the joints or bones and a postoperative abscess—a buildup of pus or infected fluid surrounded by inflamed tissue—may also require surgery to remove affected tissues.