What is Staphylococcus aureus?
Staphylococcus ("staph") are a common group of bacteria. Some types of staph normally live on people's skin and in the environment and don't cause disease. Other types of staph, particularly Staphylococcus aureus, can cause serious infections. They're often called staph infections.
You can get a staph infection from another person or by touching objects that have the bacteria on them
Staph infections can be mild or deadly
Staph bacteria that get in your bloodstream can cause problems in your organs
Doctors treat staph infections with antibiotics
Many staph infections are resistant to common antibiotics
You can help prevent staph infections by washing your hands thoroughly
What is MRSA?
Staph infections used to be cured by many antibiotics. Now many types of staph have become resistant to all but the strongest antibiotics. Staph that can’t be cured by one group of common antibiotics is called MRSA (methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus). MRSA and other even more resistant types of staph are becoming more common, especially in hospitals. These infections are hard to treat.
What causes staph infections?
Staph infections can spread easily by:
Touching another person who has the infection
Touching objects with the bacteria on them (such as gym equipment, telephones, door knobs, remote controls, or elevator buttons)
Staph usually infects your:
However, staph can move through your bloodstream and infect almost any place in your body such as your bones and the valves in your heart. Staph also may stick to medical devices in your body, such as a pacemaker, an artificial joint, or heart valve.
What are staph carriers?
Some people have staph bacteria on their skin or in their nose but have no symptoms. These people are called carriers. Carriers can spread the bacteria to other people and give them an infection. People who work in hospitals or are patients in hospitals are more likely to be carriers.
What are the symptoms of staph infections?
If you have a staph infection on your skin, you may have:
Itchy or painful blisters filled with white or yellow fluid that break and leave crusts ( impetigo Impetigo and Ecthyma Impetigo is a superficial skin infection, caused by Staphylococcus aureus, Streptococcus pyogenes, or both, that leads to the formation of scabby, yellow-crusted sores and, sometimes... read more )
If you have a staph infection somewhere else on your body, you may have other symptoms:
Breast infection ( mastitis Breast Infection and Breast Abscess A breast infection is an infection in the tissue of the breast. If your breast infection goes untreated, it can become a breast abscess. A breast abscess is a pocket of pus that forms a lump... read more ): Pain, redness, and abscesses (pockets of pus) on the breast, which are common in breastfeeding mothers usually 1 to 4 weeks after beginning to breastfeed
Lung infection ( pneumonia Pneumonia Pneumonia is an infection deep in your lungs. The infection involves the small air sacs in your lungs (alveoli). Pneumonia is different from infection of the air passages (bronchi) in your lungs... read more ): Often a high fever, shortness of breath, and a cough with bloody spit
Blood infection ( sepsis Sepsis Sepsis is when germs (bacteria) get into your bloodstream and trigger a serious body-wide reaction. When sepsis is severe, one or more of your organs may shut down. For example, your kidneys... read more ): High fever and sometimes a dangerously low drop in blood pressure ( septic shock Sepsis Sepsis is when germs (bacteria) get into your bloodstream and trigger a serious body-wide reaction. When sepsis is severe, one or more of your organs may shut down. For example, your kidneys... read more )
Heart valve infection ( endocarditis Infective Endocarditis "Endo-" means inside, "cardiac" refers to your heart, and "-itis" means inflammation. So, endocarditis is inflammation of the inside of your heart. Infective endocarditis is: Infection of the... read more ): Fever and shortness of breath —this can be deadly
Bone infection ( osteomyelitis Osteomyelitis "Osteo-" means bone, and "-itis" means inflammation. Osteomyelitis is the medical term for a bone infection. Bone is living tissue and can get infected like any other part of your body Infection... read more ): Chills, fever, bone pain, and redness and swelling in the skin above the bone
How can doctors tell if I have a staph infection?
Doctors can usually recognize a staph skin infection by examining it. To tell if you have other types of staph infections, doctors will do tests such as:
A blood test
A test of infected body fluids
How do doctors treat staph infections?
Doctors treat staph infections with antibiotics. If you got the infection in a hospital, they’ll give you antibiotics that work against MRSA.
Sometimes skin infections can be treated with an ointment that you put on your skin
If your skin infection is more severe, you'll be given antibiotics to take by mouth or sometimes by vein
Bone infections usually need surgery to take out the infected bone tissue
If you have an abscess, doctors will cut it open and drain the pus
How can I prevent staph infections?
Wash your hands thoroughly with soap and water or use hand sanitizer
Don't cook or prepare food for others if you have a staph infection of your skin