Methicillin-Resistant Staphylococcus Aureus (MRSA) - Overview

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What are the symptoms of MRSA?

Symptoms of a MRSA infection depend on where the infection is. If MRSA is causing an infection in a wound, that area of your skin may be red or tender. If you have pneumonia, you may develop a cough.

Community-associated MRSA commonly causes skin infections, such as boils, abscesses, or cellulitis. Often, people think they have been bitten by a spider or insect. Because MRSA infections can become serious in a short amount of time, it is important to see your doctor right away if you notice a boil or other skin problem.

How is an infection diagnosed?

If your doctor thinks that you are infected with MRSA, he or she will send a sample of your infected wound, blood, or urine to a lab. The lab will grow the bacteria and then test to see which kinds of antibiotics kill the bacteria. This test may take several days.

You may also be tested if your doctor suspects that you are a MRSA carrier. A MRSA carrier is a person who has the bacteria living on the skin and in the nose but who is not sick. The test is done by taking a swab from the inside of the nose.

How is an infection treated?

Depending on how serious your infection is, the doctor may drain your wound, prescribe antibiotic medicine, give you an IV (intravenous) antibiotic, or hospitalize you.

If you have a MRSA infection and need to be in a hospital, you may be isolated in a private room to reduce the chances of spreading the bacteria to others. When your doctors and nurses are caring for you, they may use extra precautions such as wearing gloves and gowns. If you have a MRSA pneumonia, they may also wear masks.

Most cases of community-associated methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (CA-MRSA) begin as mild skin infections such as pimples or boils. Your doctor may be able to treat these infections without antibiotics by using a minor surgical procedure that opens and drains the sores.

If your doctor prescribes antibiotic medicine, be sure to take all the medicine even if you begin to feel better right away. If you do not take all the medicine, you may not kill all the bacteria. No matter what your treatment, be sure to call your doctor if your infection does not get better as expected.

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