What are the causes of staph infections?
Staph or Staphylococcus is a group of bacteria that is found over the skin of most individuals. Staph bacteria usually live inside the nose, but they do not cause an infection. Staph infections may turn deadly if the bacteria invade deeper into the body, entering the bloodstream, joints, bones, lungs, or heart. The causes of staph infections are as follows:
- Skin breaks: If an individual has a cut or wound, the bacteria may enter the body or blood and may cause an infection.
- Daily objects: They usually enter the body through daily used objects such as towels, clothing, door handles, equipment, remotes, and utensils. Direct contact with an infected sore or wound, or with personal care items such as razors, bandages, etc., are common routes of transmission.
- Food poisoning: Certain types of staph bacteria may also cause food poisoning by producing a toxin. The toxin is not contagious; however, food poisoning may affect groups of people who eat the same contaminated food. Food poisoning is one of the common causes of staph infections.
- Medical devices: Catheters, dialysis tubes, and feeding tubes can be contaminated in hospital settings, causing infections.
- Tampons: These when left in the body for a long time can increase the risk of Staphylococcal toxic shock syndrome (STSS).
What are the common types of infections that staph bacteria may cause?
Staph bacteria may cause many types of infections, including:
- Skin infections: These are the most common causes of infection by staph bacteria. They may look like pimples or boils. They may be red, swollen, and painful. Sometimes, there may be pus or other drainages. They can also turn into impetigo (a crust on the skin) or into a swollen, red area of the skin that may feel hot called cellulitis.
- Bacteremia: It is an infection of the bloodstream. This may lead to sepsis, which is a very serious immune response to an infection.
- Bone and joint infections: They can cause pain, swelling, warmth, and redness in the infected area. Patients may also have chills and a fever.
- Pneumonia: Staph may infect the lungs and can cause pneumonia. Symptoms include a high fever, chills, and cough that doesn’t get better. Patients may also have chest pain and shortness of breath.
- Endocarditis: It is an infection of the inner lining of the heart chambers and valves. It causes flu-like symptoms: fever, chills, and fatigue. It also causes symptoms such as a rapid heartbeat, shortness of breath, and fluid buildup in the arms or legs.
- Food poisoning or toxic shock syndrome (TSS): TSS is a life-threatening condition caused by toxins from certain types of bacteria. Food poisoning typically causes nausea and vomiting, diarrhea, and fever. Patients may lose too many fluids and may become dehydrated. TSS causes high fever, sudden low blood pressure, vomiting, diarrhea, and confusion. Patients may have a sunburn-like rash somewhere on the body. TSS can lead to organ failure.
What is MRSA?
Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) is the most dangerous type of staph bacteria. MRSA is resistant to most prescription antibiotics that are usually given to patients, including methicillin, which is one of the strongest antibiotics available. If not treated, MRSA may spread rapidly throughout the body, and if it remains out of control, it may damage a person's lungs, heart, and joints. Some patients develop severe breathing disorders, endocarditis, and difficulty moving from the damage to their joints.
How staph infections are usually treated?
Antibiotics that may be used to treat staph infections are cefazolin, cefuroxime, cephalexin, Nallpen (nafcillin), Bactocill (oxacillin), dicloxacillin, vancomycin, Cleocin (clindamycin), rifampin, and Vibativ (telavancin).
- Depending on the type of infection, patients may get a cream, an ointment, oral medicines, or intravenous (IV) doses.
- Sometimes, an infected wound may be drained by the doctor. Surgery may be required for severe bone infections.
- Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) are resistant to many antibiotics but may be treated successfully with proper skincare and antibiotics. MRSA can progress to life-threatening infections.
- A drug known as Bactroban (mupirocin) has been shown to be sometimes effective for treating and eliminating MRSA from the nose. It is applied inside the nostrils to kill the bacteria that stay there and eventually transfer to other parts through the fingers.
How to prevent staph infections?
The best way to avoid staph infection is to maintain good hygiene.
- Regularly washing of hands, particularly after working in the soil, is important.
- Preparing food with hygiene is important because food gets exposed to staph and a person may develop poisoning.
- Skin cuts should be treated immediately with soap, water, and a bandage.
- Menstruating women may reduce the risk of staph infections by frequently changing tampons (at least every four to eight hours) and using low-absorbency tampons and alternating sanitary pad and tampon use.
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