Health Services

Health Education

General Health

What is it?

Many skin infections are now caused by an organism (germ or bacteria) that is resistant to penicillin, and penicillin-like drugs, including cephalosporins. Penicillin was the first antibiotic discovered over 50 years ago. It is no surprise that some organisms have become resistant to it. Common penicillin drugs are amoxicillin, dicloxicillin,augmentin, penicillin VK, and ampicillin. Cephalosporins are a spin-off of penicillin and include common antibiotics such as keflex and ceclor.

In some areas, MRSA accounts for up to 60% of staph infections.

MRSA is an abbreviation for Methicillin Resistant Staphylococcus Aureus. Methicillin is a type of penicillin. Staphylococcus aureus is commonly called staph. Staph is everywhere including on skin and in the nose. A break in the skin (scratch or scrape) allows organisms to get into the skin and cause an infection. MRSA infections look like any other. The difference is that it won't be cured by certain antibiotics.

Who gets it?

Anyone can get it. Some people have multiple episodes. People with poor hygiene or who live in crowded conditions are more likely to get it (once in contact with an infected person) because the germs are spread from person to person.

What does it look like?

It often begins as a "pimple" or bump that gets very red and sometimes itches at first. The area can get very painful and gets really red. At that point, it's called a boil or abcess. The red area may become quite large and drain (or ooze) a mixture of pus and blood. If it starts to drain it is very important to cover it with gauze or bandaids and wash your hands after caring for the wound so the germs are not spread to objects or people.

Are there other symptoms?

A mild fever often occurs. Some people start to feel sick and may be nauseous. Someone with a boil who begins to feel sick should visit an emergency room right away.

How is it spread?

It is spread from person to person by direct contact. Once the germs are on someone's hands the germs are spread to everything or everyone that person touches (contaminates). If someone else touches the contaminated object, the infection can be passed on.

Handwashing is very important. Wash your hands to rid them of the organism as well as disinfecting objects that have been contaminated. That includes doorknobs, towels, washcloths, clothing, and discarded bandages.


See your health care provider if you think you have a boil or a MRSA infection. The most important treatment is draining the pus from the wound. Antibiotics may be prescribed. A culture may be sent to the lab to see what organism is growing. The lab will also check to see what antibiotics are effective against the organism.

More information

Visit the CDC website.