MRSA, or methicillin-resistant staphylococcus aureus infections, are skin infections caused by bacteria that are resistant to many commonly used antibiotics. MRSA can also spread to the lungs or blood. These infections are more serious and harder to treat.
The majority of MRSA skin infections occur in nursing homes residents and hospital patients, although the infections are becoming more common in the general population. Members of crowded communities or those confined to close quarters like prisons, military bases, or daycare facilities are at higher risk for MRSA.
The spread of MRSA occurs through direct skin-to-skin contact with an infected person or by touching an item that has been contaminated with staph, such as a razor, sports equipment, or tattoo needles.
The best way to prevent MRSA is by following these hygiene tips:
- Wash hands frequently by rubbing them together with soap under running water for at least 20 seconds – the time it takes to hum Happy Birthday song twice
- Keeps wounds clean and covered while healing
- Avoid sharing razors, towels and other personal items
Watch for signs of MRSA including a red, swollen and painful bump. Contact your dermatologist if the wound is warm to the touch, has pus or drainage or is accompanied by a fever.
MRSA that occurs in healthcare settings is generally harder to treat, since these bacteria are typically resistant to most oral antibiotics. However, certain oral antibiotics are still effective against MRSA infections that develop in the general population.
If you are diagnosed with a MRSA skin infection, your dermatologist may prescribe an antibiotic effective against methicillin-resistant staphylococcus aureus. Newer drugs, such as Sivextro, have been developed to fight MRSA with additional treatment options being studied. If an antibiotic is prescribed, it is important to take all the doses, even if the infection appears to be improving.
In cases where an abscess is present, preferred treatment is surgical drainage. The area should be covered with a clean bandage that is kept in place when around others. Topical antibiotic ointments are sometimes prescribed for small wounds.
To prevent antibiotic resistance: take only antibiotics prescribed for you – don’t share, take doses exactly as ordered – don’t skip or stop treatment early, ask for tests to determine which antibiotic would be the most effective, get recommended vaccines and practice good personal hygiene.