How to Tell If It's MRSA

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MRSA, or methicillin resistant Staphylococcus aureus, is an antibiotic resistant strain of the common Staphylococcus bacteria. There are two basic types of MRSA: HA-MRSA, which is the most common form and occurs in hospitals and other health care settings; and CA-MRSA, which occurs in the community. MRSA can be the source of infections that range from minor skin infections to serious, life threatening forms of pneumonia. Early symptoms of MRSA are very similar to those of ordinary staph infections, but MRSA can be detected with proper testing.

Watch for small, red bumps. MRSA often begins as a skin infection and can resemble a rash, pimple, boil, blister, eye sty, or insect bite. These can develop nearly anywhere but are most common around wounds and in the armpit or groin areas, as well as on the back of the neck near the hairline.

Monitor any such bumps. Watch for redness around the area or for signs of spreading. Feel the area around the bumps; if they feel warmer than the surrounding skin, this can be a sign of a MRSA infection brewing. If the bumps begin to get larger, deeper, or more painful, rather than beginning to fade as a normal boil, rash, or pimple would, this too can be an indication of MRSA infection. Watch for the development of yellow or white pus, which can sometimes have a foul smell.

Take your temperature. Often, those infected with MRSA will develop a fever. Low fevers are common with minor MRSA infections, while a high fever can be an indication that MRSA has spread into other parts of the body to cause more serious infection.

Watch for any signs of shortness of breath, wheezing, or respiratory congestion. MRSA bacteria can spread to the respiratory tract and the lungs to cause a serious, sometimes life-threatening, form of pneumonia. Any such symptoms should be assessed by a medical professional as soon as possible.

Watch for symptoms of urinary tract infection, such as fever, chills, abdominal pain, lower back pain, and burning or pain during urination. MRSA can spread to the urinary tract to cause bladder, kidney, and urinary tract infections.

Bring any suspicious symptoms to the attention of a medical professional. Ask to be tested for the MRSA bacteria, which is most commonly done with a culture. Results are generally available in approximately 48 hours.

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