MRSA is in the news a lot these days, and even mentioning the word to a patient can cause fear and panic. We see skin infections caused by MRSA every day, so in this months newsletter we will share some facts with you that will hopefully help calm any unwarranted fears.
What is MRSA?
The bacteria called Staphylococcus Aureus or “staph” for short, is responsible for most skin infections. MRSA (pronounced “mersa”) stands for Methicillin Resistant Staphylococcus Aureus. This is a bacteria that is resistant to many of the common antibiotics that are used to treat infections, such as Keflex or Amoxicillin.
What kind of skin infections does MRSA cause?
Most commonly we see MRSA causing folliculitis or boils:
Folliculitis looks like pimples filled with pus and often occurs on the buttocks or thighs.
A “boil” (the correct medical term is “carbuncle”) is an infected hair follicle that is swollen, tender, red hot, and is filled with pus (see photo). MRSA can also infect cuts and scrapes and cause other skin infections such as impetigo or cellulitis.
How common is it?
We see it every day. In fact, most skin infections that we culture, come back as MRSA. Most of the infections we see with MRSA are not severe and are easily treated because it is not resistant to every antibiotic, just to some.
How do you treat MRSA?
Treatment depends on the type of infection.
A “boil” is treated by incision and drainage. The area is numbed, and a small hole is poked to allow the pus to drain out. The patient then applies warm compresses at home. No antibiotics are necessary for this type of infection.
Folliculitis or multiple “boils” often do require an antibiotic, and while MRSA is resistant to methicillin and other common antibiotics, it is not resistant to every antibiotic. The MRSA in our community is often sensitive to Bactrim or doxycycline. We send a culture of the pus to determine the antibiotic sensitivity, but we do not wait for the results to start treatment.
The Staff and Doctors at Minars Dermatology
In this issue
What is MRSA?
MRSA skin infections:How common is it?
How to treat MRSA?
Swine Flu Tool:
I thought the following snippet might be interesting and useful given all of the talk these days about “swine flu”:
Websites help flu patients judge if they need a doctor.
The AP (10/7) reported that Microsoft created a website that, “using the same type of triage calculations that doctors at Emory University use,” can help users decide if their “swine flu’s bad enough to require a doctor’s attention.”. Emory based the self-assessment tool the website uses “on what the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has determined are key risks factors for a bad flu outcome,” and it was tested by “a large insurer…against more than 2,500 records of patient visits for flulike symptoms in Colorado.”
The Washington Post reported that the government has a similar website.