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Staphylococcus aureus, often called simply "staph," are bacteria commonly carried on the skin (Read about "Skin") or in the nose of healthy people. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) say approximately 25 percent to 30 percent of us harbor staph bacteria in our noses.
Sometimes, staph can cause an infection. In fact, staph bacteria are one of the most common causes of skin infections in the United States. CDC says skin infections caused by staph may be red, swollen, painful or have pus or other drainage. Many of these skin infections are minor, such as impetigo. (Read about "Impetigo") However, staph bacteria also can cause serious infections such as surgical wound infections, bloodstream infections and pneumonia. (Read about "Sepsis" "Pneumonia")
Some staph bacteria are especially dangerous because they are resistant to the usual treatment, which is antibiotic therapy. (Read about "Antibiotics") Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus or MRSA is a type of staph that is resistant to antibiotics such as methicillin and other more common antibiotics including oxacillin, penicillin and amoxicillin. While 25 percent to 30 percent of the population carries staph, approximately 1 percent carries MRSA, according to CDC.
The National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID) says staph infections, including MRSA, occur most frequently among persons in hospitals and healthcare facilities (such as nursing homes and dialysis centers) who have weakened immune systems. (Read about "The Immune System") These healthcare-associated staph infections include surgical wound infections, urinary tract infections (Read about "Urinary Tract Infections"), bloodstream infections and pneumonia.
Staph and MRSA can also cause illness in persons outside of hospitals and healthcare facilities. When people get a MRSA infection and they haven't been in the hospital in the past year nor had a medical procedure (such as dialysis, surgery or catheters), the infection is called a CA-MRSA infection. The CA stands for community acquired. Staph or MRSA infections in the community usually show up as skin infections. They may appear to be infected pimples, boils, an insect bite, a spider bite, or a sore, but should be checked immediately by a healthcare provider if there is any redness or swelling, according to CDC.
NIAID says many staph skin infections may be treated by draining the abscess or boil and may not require antibiotics. Drainage of skin boils or abscesses should only be done by a healthcare provider.
CDC says many staph and MRSA infections are treatable with antibiotics. (Read about "Antibiotics") If you are given an antibiotic, take all of the doses, even if the infection is getting better, unless your doctor tells you to stop taking it. Do not share antibiotics with other people or save unfinished antibiotics to use at another time.
Antibiotics can be taken by mouth, in pill form or liquid, applied as a cream or placed directly in the blood stream intravenously via what is called infusion. Infusion therapy is the term often used to describe the administration of medication - such as antibiotics or other drugs - through a needle or catheter. (Read about "Infusion Therapy")
You can protect yourself from staph and MRSA by practicing good hygiene. Here are some suggestions from CDC.
If you suspect you have a staph infection, see your doctor at once.
All Concept Communications material is provided for information only and is neither advice nor a substitute for proper medical care. Consult a qualified healthcare professional who understands your particular history for individual concerns.
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