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Staphylococcus aureus (staph) bacteria are commonly found on the skin (armpit, groin, and genital areas) and in the nose of many people. These bacteria normally do not cause illness. However, when these bacteria enter the body through a break in the skin, they can cause small infections such as pimples and boils. Staph can also cause serious infections such as bloodstream infections, pneumonia, or surgical wound infections. Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) is a type of staph bacteria that is resistant to the antibiotic methicillin and other antibiotics related to penicillin.
MRSA is spread by close contact with an infected person, either by direct skin contact or indirect contact with shared objects or surfaces, such as shared towels, razors, soap, wound bandages, bedding, clothes, hot tub or sauna benches, and athletic equipment. Wound drainage or pus is very infectious.
Your risk is higher if you:
Symptoms of MRSA infection may include:
See your health care provider if you think you have MRSA. Your health care provider may collect a sample from the infected area and send it to a laboratory for testing. Your health care provider can then prescribe an antibiotic that is right for you.
Seeing your health care provider right away when symptoms develop will prevent the infection from becoming worse. If your health care provider prescribes an antibiotic, take it exactly as directed, finish all doses, and do not share it with anyone else. (See Quick Facts about Antibiotic Use and Antibiotic Resistance.)
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This page was last reviewed August 6, 2009