MRSA Infection (Methicillin-Resistant Staphylococcus Aureus)
MRSA infection is caused by Staphylococcus aureus bacteria — often called "staph." MRSA stands for methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus. It's a strain of staph that's resistant to the broad-spectrum antibiotics commonly used to treat it. MRSA can be fatal.
Most MRSA infections occur in hospitals or other health care settings, such as nursing homes and dialysis centers. It's known as health care-associated MRSA, or HA-MRSA. Older adults and people with weakened immune systems are at most risk of HA-MRSA. More recently, another type of MRSA has occurred among otherwise healthy people in the wider community. This form, community-associated MRSA, or CA-MRSA, is responsible for serious skin and soft tissue infections and for a serious form of pneumonia.
What are the signs and symptoms of MRSA infection?
Most MRSA infections are skin infections that produce the following signs and symptoms:
How is MRSA infection transmitted?
- cellulitis (infection of the skin or the fat and tissues that lie immediately beneath the skin, usually starting as small red bumps in the skin),
- boils (pus-filled infections of hair follicles),
- abscesses (collections of pus in under the skin),
- sty (infection of eyelid gland),
- carbuncles (infections larger than an abscess, usually with several openings to the skin), and
- impetigo (a skin infection with pus-filled blisters).
There are two major ways people become infected with MRSA. The first is physical contact with someone who is either infected or is a carrier (people who are not infected but are colonized with the bacteria on their body) of MRSA. The second way is for people to physically contact MRSA on any objects such as door handles, floors, sinks, or towels that have been touched by an MRSA-infected person or carrier. Normal skin tissue in people usually does not allow MRSA infection to develop; however, if there are cuts, abrasions, or other skin flaws such as psoriasis (chronic skin disease with dry patches, redness, and scaly skin), MRSA may proliferate. Many otherwise healthy individuals, especially children and young adults, do not notice small skin imperfections or scrapes and may be lax in taking precautions about skin contacts. This is the likely reason MRSA outbreaks occur in diverse types of people such as school team players (like football players or wrestlers), dormitory residents, and armed-services personnel in constant close contact.
People with higher risk of MRSA infection are those with obvious skin breaks (surgical patients, hospital patients with intravenous lines, burns, or skin ulcers) and patients with depressed immune systems (infants, elderly, or HIV-infected individuals) or chronic diseases (diabetes or cancer). Patients with pneumonia (lung infection) due to MRSA can transmit MRSA by airborne droplets. Health-care workers as a group are repeatedly exposed to MRSA-positive patients and can have a high rate of infection if precautions are not taken. Health-care workers and patient visitors should use disposable masks, gowns, and gloves when they enter the MRSA-infected patient's room.
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