Many skin infections are now caused by an organism -- germ or bacteria -- that is resistant to penicillin and penicillin-like drugs, including cephalosporins. 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 -- such as a 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.
To help you learn more about MRSA and keep you healthy and safe, we've provided some answers to commonly asked questions.
Who can get MRSA?
Anyone can get it, and 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 MRSA look like?
It often begins as a pimple-like spot or bump that gets very red and sometimes itches at first. The area can get very painful and will become really red. At that point, it's called a boil or abscess. 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 bandage 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 MRSA 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. If someone else touches the contaminated object, the infection can be passed on. Handwashing is very important in preventing the spread of MRSA. Wash your hands to rid them of the organism and disinfect objects that have been contaminated, which can include doorknobs, towels, washcloths, clothing, and discarded bandages.
How is MRSA treated?
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, and the lab will also check to see what antibiotics are effective against the organism.