Staph Infection
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Staph Infection

( Infection; Methicillin-Resistant ; MRSA)

En Español (Spanish Version)

Definition

A staph infection is a bacterial infection caused by the bacterium Staphylococcus aureus . Staph infections can affect the skin, blood, bones, or lungs.

Causes

A staph infection can be spread through several mechanisms:

  • Air
  • Contaminated surfaces
  • Person-to-person
  • From one area of the body to another

Risk Factors

The following factors increase your chance of a staph infection. If you have any of these risk factors, tell your doctor:

  • Impaired immunity
  • Exposure to hospital or clinical settings

Symptoms

If you experience any of these symptoms, do not assume it is attributed to a staph infection. These symptoms may be caused by other, less serious health conditions. If you experience any one of them, see your physician.

  • Folliculitis—infection of hair follicles
  • Boils —a skin infection that may drain pus, blood, or an amber-colored liquid.
  • Scalded skin syndrome—a skin infection characterized by a fever, rash, and sometimes blisters.
  • Impetigo —large blisters on the skin
  • Toxic shock syndrome —a rare but serious bacterial infection; two of its primary symptoms are a rash and high fever.
  • Cellulitis —a skin infection characterized by a swollen, red area that spreads quickly.

Infected Hair Follicle—Folliculitis

Inflammed hair follicle

© 2008 Nucleus Medical Art, Inc.

Diagnosis

Your doctor will ask about your symptoms and medical history, and perform a physical exam. Tests may include the following:

  • Cultures
  • Blood tests
  • Urine tests
  • Skin biopsy —removal of a sample of skin to test for infection

Treatment

Talk with your doctor about the best treatment plan for you. Treatment options include the following:

Medications

Antibiotics are given to kill the bacteria.

Cleansing of the Skin

Washing the skin with an antibacterial cleanser, applying an antibiotic, and covering the skin with a sterile dressing can help treat the infection and keep it from spreading.

Prevention

To help reduce your chances of getting a staph infection, take the following steps:

  • Thoroughly wash your hands often with soap and water.
  • Keep cuts and wounds clean and covered until healed.
  • Avoid contact with other people’s wounds and materials contaminated by wounds.

RESOURCES:

National Center for Infectious Diseases
http://www.cdc.gov/ncidod

National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases
http://www3.niaid.nih.gov

CANADIAN RESOURCES:

Public Health Agency of Canada
http://www.phac-aspc.gc.ca

The Hospital for Sick Children, Infectious Disease Division
http://www.sickkids.ca/infectiousdiseases

References:

Questions and answers: the flu and staph infection. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website. Available at: http://www.cdc.gov/flu/about/qa/flustaph.htm . Accessed October 25, 2006.

Staph infections. Nemours Foundation website. Available at: http://www.kidshealth.org/parent/infections/bacterial_viral/staphylococcus.html . Accessed October 25, 2006.



Last reviewed February 2008 by David Horn, MD

Please be aware that this information is provided to supplement the care provided by your physician. It is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. CALL YOUR HEALTHCARE PROVIDER IMMEDIATELY IF YOU THINK YOU MAY HAVE A MEDICAL EMERGENCY. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.


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