More Americans die annually from invasive methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) infections than from HIV/AIDS, H1N1 influenza and Parkinson's disease. MRSA infection is caused by Staphylococcus aureus bacteria called "staph." It's a strain of staph that's resistant to the broad-spectrum antibiotics commonly used to treat it.
Most MRSA infections occur in hospitals or other health care settings, such as nursing homes and dialysis centers. It's also known as health care-associated MRSA, or HA-MRSA. Older adults and people with weakened immune systems are at most risk of HA-MRSA. More recently, another type of MRSA has occurred among otherwise healthy people in the wider community. This form, community-associated MRSA, or CA-MRSA, is responsible for serious skin and soft tissue infections and for a serious form of pneumonia.
Staph skin infections, including MRSA, generally start as small red bumps that resemble pimples, boils or spider bites. These can quickly turn into deep, painful abscesses that require surgical draining. Sometimes the bacteria remain confined to the skin. But they can also penetrate into the body, causing potentially life-threatening infections in bones, joints, surgical wounds, the bloodstream, heart valves and lungs.
Staph infections are caused by staphylococcus bacteria, a type of germ commonly found on the skin or in the nose of even healthy individuals. Most of the time, these bacteria cause no problems or result in relatively minor skin infections.
But staph infections don't always remain skin-deep. In some circumstances, they may invade your bloodstream, urinary tract, lungs or heart.
Go to the doctor if you or your child has an area of red, irritated or painful skin; pus-filled blisters or fever. You may also want to consult your doctor if skin infections are being passed from one family member to another and/or two or more family members have skin infections at the same time.
Many people carry staph bacteria and never develop staph infections. If you have a staph infection, there's a good chance that it stemmed from bacteria you've been carrying around for some time.