Fitness Facts: What is MRSA?
By Connie Colbert
Director, Canyon Health and Wellness Clinic
Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) is a bacterium that causes infections in different parts of the body. It’s tougher to treat than most strains of staphylococcus aureus because it is resistant to some commonly used antibiotics.
These bacteria naturally live in the nose and on the skin and generally don’t cause any harm. However, when they begin to multiply uncontrollably, a MRSA infection can occur.
Approximately 5% of patients in U.S. hospitals carry MRSA in their nose or on their skin.
It also can be contracted when someone comes into contact with an object or surface that has been touched by a person with MRSA.
Anyone can get MRSA. The risk increases with activities or places that involve crowding, skin-to-skin contact and shared equipment or supplies. Some of the people who carry MRSA can go on to get a MRSA infection.
Non-intact skin, such as when there are abrasions or incisions, is often the site of an MRSA infection. People at higher risk of MRSA infection are athletes, daycare and school students, military personnel in barracks and those who receive inpatient medical care or have surgery or medical devices inserted in their body.
MRSA is usually spread in the community by contact with infected people or things that are carrying the bacteria. This includes contact with a contaminated wound or by sharing personal items, such as towels or razors, that have touched infected skin.
You can take these steps to reduce your risk of MRSA infection:
- Maintain good hand and body hygiene. Clean hands often and clean your body regularly, especially after exercise.
- Keep cuts, scrapes and wounds clean and covered until healed.
- Avoid sharing personal items such as towels and razors.
- Get care early if you think you might have an infection.
- Do not pick or pop any sore you may have.
- Throw away bandages and tape with the regular trash.
The symptoms of a MRSA infection depend on the part of the body that is infected.
For example, people with MRSA skin infections often get swelling, warmth, redness and pain in infected skin. In most cases it is hard to tell if an infection is the result of MRSA or another type of bacteria without laboratory tests that your health care provider can order.
Some MRSA skin infections can have a typical appearance and can be confused with a spider bite. However, unless you see the spider, the irritation is likely not a spider bite.
The infection most often appears as a bump- or blister-like lesion that may be filled with pus under the skin. The area is often red, swollen, painful, warm to the touch and can be accompanied by a fever.
If you or someone in your family develops this skin condition …
- Contact your health care provider, especially if a fever develops
- Do not pick or pop the lesion on the skin
- Cover the area with clean, dry bandages until you see a health care provider
- Wash your hands often
If your health care provider suspects MRSA, he or she will take a sample of the drainage from the lesion and begin a course of antibiotics to help fight the infection. If the lesion is large, the health care provider may need to drain the lesion.