Deadly skin infection? 12 graphic photos that could save your life
/ CBS NEWS
Think boils and blisters are no big deal? Think again. Some seemingly minor skin problems are caused by MRSA, potentially lethal staph germs that are resistant to some antibiotics.
The key to successful treatment of a MRSA (methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus) infection is prompt treatment. That's why it's so important to know all about MRSA - what causes it, how it's treated, and - perhaps most important - what MRSA skin infections look like.
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What does a MRSA skin infection look like? Typically, it's a bump, boil, pustule, or infected area that is red and swollen and full of pus. It may be painful and warm to the touch, and accompanied by a fever.
Sometimes MRSA lesions are mistaken for spider bites.
Is the lesion "purulent?" That is, is it movable, compressible, and fluid-filled? Does it have a yellow or white center, with a central point or "head?" Is it draining pus? Those are all signs of a MRSA skin infection.
Some MRSA lesions show up on areas of the skin affected by cuts or abrasions. Others show up on hair-covered parts of the body, including the back of the neck, groin, buttock, armpit, and the bearded area of mens' faces.
MRSA can affect anyone, but certain people are at heightened risk - including patients in healthcare facilities and their visitors. Risk also seems to be greater among people who spend time in athletic facilities, dormitories, military barracks, prisons, and daycare centers - places where there might be crowded conditions and poor hygiene.
How does MRSA spread? You can get it from direct contact with an infected person, or by sharing, towels, razors, and other personal items that have touched infected skin.
You can reduce your risk of infection by keeping your hands clean and being careful not to touch surfaces where MRSA bacteria might be lurking.
Cuts and scrapes should be kept clean and covered with a bandage until they heal. Pus from an infected wound can contain staph germs, so watch out. Clean your hands thoroughly with soap and water or an alcohol-based hand rub after changing a bandage or touching an infected wound.
Never pop or drain a boil that might harbor MRSA. That can make the infection worse, or cause it to spread. If you think you might have an infection, cover the affected skin, wash your hands, and contact your doctor. You may be given an antibiotic. If so, be sure to take all the doses, even if the infection is getting better - unless your doctor tells you to stop. Do not share antibiotics.
Laundering clothes the right way can reduce the risk of spreading MRSA. Contaminated clothing, linen, towels, etc. can be laundered separately, although that's not absolutely necessary. Just make sure to wash and dry at the warmest temperatures recommended on clothing labels. Hot water and bleach are not necessary
Visiting an MRSA patient in the hospital? Casual contact -such as kissing, hugging, and touching - is generally acceptable, though it's best to follow the facility's visitor policies. Do not touch catheters or wound sites, and wash your hands before leaving the person's room.
Can you get MRSA more than once? Yes. Having one MRSA infection doesn't make you immune to future infections.
To treat MRSA skin infections, doctors often drain the lesion and prescribe antibiotics. Severe cases can necessitate surgery to remove diseased tissue.
What does the enemy look like? Here's a colorized electron micrograph showing a clump of MRSA bacteria.