Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus or MRSA is a staph infection that has become immune to many types of antibiotics. Staphylococcus aureus is a common bacteria that lives on our skin and, most of the time, causes no ill effects. The problems may arise, however, if there is a break in the skin – through a cut, a puncture, or some other opening – that allows the staph to enter into the body.
Unchecked MRSA may develop into sepsis. Sometimes incorrectly called blood poisoning, sepsis is the body’s often deadly response to infection. Sepsis kills and disables millions and requires early suspicion and rapid treatment for survival.
Sepsis and septic shock can result from an infection anywhere in the body, such as pneumonia, influenza, or urinary tract infections. Worldwide, one-third of people who develop sepsis die. Many who do survive are left with life-changing effects, such as post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), chronic pain and fatigue, organ dysfunction (organs don’t work properly) and/or amputations.
There are two types of MRSA infections: community-acquired (CA) and hospital-acquired (HA). The most common type is HA-MRSA, but CA-MRSA is becoming more common.
How is MRSA infection spread?
Most often, MRSA is spread by skin-to-skin contact or through contact with items contaminated by the bacteria. For example, if you skin your knee on a surface that has the MRSA bacteria, it could enter your body through the break in the skin.
Healthcare-acquired infections are spread by the people who are inside the healthcare facility, who may touch a patient who has MRSA and then transmit it to another patient. Patients may also contract MRSA in the facility if they touch contaminated objects, such as a bedside table or bed rails.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), MRSA infections usually appear as a bump or infected area on the skin that might be:
- Warm to the touch
- Full of pus or other drainage
- Accompanied by a fever
Who is at risk for MRSA infection?
Anyone can develop an MRSA infection, however people with weakened immune systems or chronic illnesses do have a higher risk. MRSA is also spread easily within healthcare settings.
Although MRSA bacteria is resistant to methicillin, a type of antibiotic, it can often be treated with another type of antibiotic.
For MRSA treatment to be effective, the infection needs to be caught and treated as early as possible.
Not all infections can be prevented, but the chances of spreading infections, including MRSA, can be greatly reduced by following these tips:
- Wash your hands often, particularly if you are in a healthcare facility.
- Keep wounds clean and covered.
- Avoid sharing personal items, such as razors.
If you suspect sepsis, call 9-1-1 or go to a hospital and tell your medical professional, “I AM CONCERNED ABOUT SEPSIS.”
The information here is also available as a Sepsis Information Guide, which is a downloadable format for easier printing.
Would you like to share your story about sepsis or read about others who have had sepsis? Please visit Faces of Sepsis, where you will find hundreds of stories from survivors and tributes to those who died from sepsis.
Updated December 13, 2017>