What is MRSA? Methicillin-Resistant Staphylococcus Aureus (MRSA) is a dreaded condition that is due to a resistant infection caused by a group of bacteria commonly known as staph. It can lead to various diseases resulting from infection of the different body tissues.
What Are the MRSA Symptoms?
MRSA symptoms depend on the part of the body that is affected.
MRSA Infection of Skin and Soft Tissue
MRSA infection of skin and soft tissue can lead to:
- Boils and abscesses
Skin infection with MRSA usually develops first as a painful bump that may look like an insect bite. This later becomes swollen and filled with pus (boil). When the lump becomes larger, the pus may spread under your skin to form as abscess. Other MRSA symptoms include high fever and a general feeling of being sick.
MRSA infection can cause extensive skin infections such as cellulitis, which affects the deeper layers if tissue is under the skin. MRSA symptoms of cellulitis include red, hot, swollen and painful skin.
Invasive MRSA infections
When the MRSA infection spreads through the blood and deep inside your body, more serious infections can occur. This can cause:
- Sepsis or blood poisoning, which can lead to a dangerous drop in blood pressure due to septic shock
- Infection of the urinary tract
- Infection of the inner lining of the heart (endocarditis)
- Infection of the lung (pneumonia)
- Infection of the small fluid-filled sacs (bursae) under the skin (bursitis)
- Infection of a joint (septic arthritis)
- Infection of a bone (osteomyelitis)
MRSA symptoms of invasive infection include:
- High fever (38°C /100.4°F or above)
- A general feeling of being sick
- Muscle aches and pains
- Swelling, tenderness and pain in the affected part of the body
When to See a Doctor
Consult your doctor if you have any of the MRSA symptoms described. Avoid treating the skin infection by yourself since it can worsen the condition or spread to others. Cover the skin and seek medical help. Wash your hands thoroughly.
How Is MRSA Diagnosed?
Confirmation of MRSA infection is done by laboratory examination of a tissue sample/secretion to look for drug-resistant staph bacteria. Your tissue sample is sent to the lab where staph bacteria are cultured in a dish. It may take about 48 hours for bacteria to propagate and other tests may be used to detect the presence of staph in a shorter period.
Is MRSA Contagious?
MRSA is highly contagious and it may spread through direct skin contact with infected people, by touching a contaminated surface, or by inhaling the bacteria through air. Individuals with active infections are very contagious, but individuals who carry MRSA but not infected can also spread it to others.
Most cases of MRSA infections come from hospitals, but it may also spread rapidly in the community where kids, teens and adults are exposed.
Who Is at Risk?
People who are most at risk of contracting health care-associated MRSA are those who are in the hospital or have:
- A weakened immune system
- Had surgery
- An open wound
- A urinary catheter or intravenous cannula inserted
- A severe skin condition
- Cuts/burns on the skin surface
- Frequent use of antibiotics
What Are the Preventions of MRSA?
For Community-Associated MRSA
To reduce the risk of acquiring community-associated MRSA:
- Wash your hands thoroughly and regularly.
- Cut short your fingernails.
- Avoid sharing towels.
- Avoid sharing products like soap, lotion, creams and other cosmetics.
- Avoid sharing personal items like razors, toothbrushes, combs, hairbrushes, andnail files.
- Keep wounds clean and covered with dry bandages until they are healed, in order to avoid spreading the infection.
- Never treat the infection yourself.
- Take antibiotics as prescribed by your doctor and make sure to get a complete dose. Do not stop taking the medication without your doctor’s advice.
For Hospital-Associated MRSA
Health care providers should help prevent MRSA infections by doing the following measures:
- Maintain hand cleanliness by washing with water and soap or alcohol-based hand wash.
- Make sure that hospital equipment and rooms are thoroughly cleaned.
- Keep patients infected with MRSA isolated from other patients to avoid spread of infection.
- Health care providers should wear a gown over their clothing and gloves while caring for infected patients.
- Visitors must also be required to wear gowns and gloves.
- Dispose used gowns and gloves properly after visiting a patient and wash hands thoroughly.
- Patients with MRSA should be allowed limited access around the hospital and encouraged to stay in their rooms except for tests and treatments.
- Screen other patients for MRSA bacteria by swabbing their skin.