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Possible Symptoms of MRSA Infection

In order to be able to better understand and the identify the symptoms of a MRSA infection, some background knowledge of infectious diseases and Staphyloccocus infections in particular is required.

Infectious Diseases and MRSA


Infectious diseases are caused by agents such as bacteria, viruses, fungi or single-celled or multicellular parasites. By definition, infectious diseases are contagious from one person to another when the causative agent of the disease moves from one host to another. Infectious diseases can also be transmitted in other ways than direct human contact, such as through the bites of animals and insects, through airborne respiratory droplets, through food or water and through touching inanimate objects, called fomites. The most common symptom of most infectious diseases is a fever due to the immune response to a pathogen, although symptoms of an infection can vary from case to case. Other common non-specific symptoms of an infection include muscle aches, fatigue and loss of appetite. Mild cases can usually be treated at home with appropriate medication; moderate and serious infections usually require hospitalization and intensive medical care.


Staph Infections and MRSA


Staph infections are caused by a type of bacterium called Staphylococcus. Staphylococcus aureus is the species that is responsible for most infection cases, but several other species of the genus Staphylococcus can cause infections. Staphylococcus bacteria can be found on some healthy people without any signs of infection, most commonly in the area of the nose. Most types of Staph infections can be cleared up with basic antibiotics, but some Staphylococcus aureus bacteria have become resistant to a certain class of antibiotics called beta-lactams. These antibiotics have a certain chemical structure; the category includes antibiotics such as penicillin, amoxicillin and methicillin.


Most of the time, Staph infections just cause localized skin damage; however, Staph infections have the potential to become dangerous when they do not just stay skin-deep. The bacteria can potentially invade your bloodstream, lungs, urinary tract or even your heart. This more commonly occurs in individuals with weakened immune systems, those who are acutely ill and hospitalized and those who suffer from chronic illnesses. It is not only sick people and the hospitalized population who have to worry about MRSA, however. A type of MRSA called community-acquired MRSA (CA-MRSA) infects otherwise healthy individuals.


Symptoms of MRSA


Staph infection of the skin can result in a localized collection of abscesses, boils or furuncles that are filled with pus. The affected region may turn red and swollen and be intensely painful, and drainage of the area may occur. If the MRSA infection is moderate, some of the symptoms that may be present include headache, a general sick feeling, muscle aches, shortness of breath, fatigue, fever, shivering and chest pain of mild to medium intensity. More severe cases of MRSA infection usually have worsening symptoms, including: muscle aches, joint pain, bone pain, chest pain, painful breathing, shortness of breath, fever and chills, low blood pressure, fatigue, headaches, rash and malaise.


If the Staph bacteria manage to infect the bloodstream, a life-threatening condition called septic shock occurs. Sepsis causes a severe drop in blood pressure and may also cause fever and breathing problems. Symptoms can also occur from a bloodstream infection from the bacteria spreading to other parts of the body. When this occurs, many complications are possible, including septic arthritis, abscesses deep within the body, blood poisoning, or septicaemia, a bone infection called osteomyelitis, meningitis, endocarditis, or inflammation of the inner lining of the heart, and pneumonia.


Wounds infected with MRSA will become red, swollen and tender and have yellowish pus seeping from them in most cases. It is important to take care of minor skin wounds such as burns, cuts, puncture wounds or bites before they become infected. If the wound becomes infected, it is wise to seek professional medical attention for treatment.


Some clinical signs may be present during a MRSA infection, including:


Skin Boil - Furuncle

Skin Boils or Furuncles

Furuncles are deep infections of the hair follicles, commonly caused by Staphylococcus aureus bacteria. Boils and furuncles become painful, swollen and filled with pus. More Info
Stye Eye

Eye Styes

A stye is an infection around the eye that affects the sebaceous glands or apocrine sweat glands around the eye. This produces a bump on the eyelid. Styes can be caused either by a bacterial infection, commonly Staphylococcus aureus, or from a gland's duct becoming blocked off. More Info
Carbuncle

Carbuncles

Carbuncles are pus-filled areas that are larger than boils, with multiple openings on the skin. Carbuncles caused by Staphylococcus bacteria are contagious and may spread to other areas of the body or even to other people who contact the carbuncle. More Info
Impetigo Picture

Impetigo

Impetigo is defined as bacterial skin infection that is very contagious, most commonly suffered by younger children and close-contact sports players. Impetigo causes many blisters over certain areas of the body. More Info
Abscesses

Abscesses

Abscesses are collections of pus, composed of dead white blood cells and bacterial cells, that get gathered in a cavity as a defensive reaction to prevent the spread of the infection to other areas of the body. More Info
Urinary Tract Infection

Urinary Tract Infection

Urinary Tract Infection (UTI) is a bacterial infection within the urinary tract. Bacteria get into the urethra, bladder or kidney and they multiply in the urine, causing pain and irritation that worsens at the time of urination. More Info
Bloodstream Infection

Bloodstream Infection or Bacteremia

Bacteremia is the invasion of bacteria into the bloodstream. A bloodstream infection may occur due to bacteria entering the body through a surgical incision, injection site or wound. It can pass without symptoms or complications, or it can lead to septic shock and other complications, which may prove to be fatal. More Info
All of the above mentioned clinical signs may be recognized as MRSA symptoms in specific cases.

Sometimes, even with classic MRSA symptoms and signs, it is important to keep in mind that the infection could still be caused by the non-drug-resistant Staphylococcus aureus. A diagnosis of MRSA can only be confirmed by obtaining bacteria from the patient and culturing the bacteria. The easiest way to obtain the culture is from the drainage of infected skin sites. The culture is then tested in the laboratory to determine its drug resistance and susceptibility. This procedure takes several days to obtain the results of the test. If a MRSA case is suspected in this timeframe, the doctor may prescribe non-beta lactam antibiotics that would work against most MRSA cases just in case the bacterium causing the infection is drug resistant.


The frequency of methicilin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus infections is increasing. Although the disease was formerly limited to hospitalized individuals and those with with weak immune systems, now this type of disease can affect the healthy population and those residing outside of medical institutions and close-living facilities. About 30% of the population of healthy people normally have Staph bacteria somewhere on their bodies, and most of these people never experience any problems from the bacteria. However, the increase in cases of community-acquired MRSA makes it extremely important to be conscious of preventing the spread of infectious disease. MRSA also continues to be a problem in hospitals, nursing homes and other group living facilities.


Resources:
http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/mrsa/DS00735/DSECTION=symptoms
http://www.cdc.gov/mrsa/symptoms/index.html




MRSA FAQ

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