How Do You Get Staph Infection?

Reviewed on 12/9/2020

What Is a Staph Infection?

Staph infection is quite contagious, including both methicillin-resistant staph (MRSA) and methicillin-susceptible staph (MSSA). You can get staph from breathing in infected breath droplets, touching contaminated surfaces including an infected person's skin,  or getting the bacteria in a cut.
Staph infection is quite contagious, including both methicillin-resistant staph (MRSA) and methicillin-susceptible staph (MSSA). You can get staph from breathing in infected breath droplets, touching contaminated surfaces including an infected person’s skin, or getting the bacteria in a cut.

Staphylococcus aureus (“staph” infection) is common bacteria found on the skin and inside the nasal cavity that can cause serious infections if it gets into the blood, leading to sepsis or death.

There are two types of staph bacteria that are defined by how they respond to methicillin, an antibiotic used to treat staph infections:

  • Methicillin-resistant staph (MRSA
  • Methicillin-susceptible staph (MSSA) 

Common types of staph infections include:

What Are Symptoms of a Staph Infection?

Symptoms of staphylococcal infection depend on the part of the body that is infected. 

Symptoms of staph skin infections, including MRSA include: 

  • A bump or infected area on the skin that is
    • Red
    • Swollen
    • Painful
    • Warm to the touch
    • Full of pus or other drainage
    • Accompanied by a fever

What Causes a Staph Infection?

The bacterium Staphylococcus aureus causes staph infections. Staph infections are commonly spread in the community by contact with infected people or with surfaces or objects that have the bacteria on them. Contact with a contaminated wound, or contact with personal items such as towels or razors that have touched infected skin can spread the bacteria.

Risk factors for developing staph infections include:

  • Low white blood cells (neutropenia) or neutrophil dysfunction
  • Diabetes
  • Intravenous drug abuse
  • Foreign bodies, including intravascular catheters and intravenous lines (IVs)
  • Trauma 
  • Sharing personal items, such as towels or razors
  • Recent stays in a healthcare facility
  • Exposure to patients carrying or infected with staph
  • Uncovered and draining wounds, especially in high-contact sports or crowded living
  • Hospital stays or surgery (during and shortly after)
  • Outpatient surgery and procedures, such as dialysis
  • Nursing home stays

SLIDESHOW

MRSA Infection: Causes, Symptoms, and Treatment See Slideshow

Is a Staph Infection Contagious? Is MRSA Contagious?

Staph infection is contagious, including both methicillin-resistant staph (MRSA) and methicillin-susceptible staph (MSSA).

Staph infection can be transmitted by:

  • Touching a person who has staph on their skin
  • Being near a person who has staph when they cough or sneeze
  • Touching a surface such as a table or door knob that has the bacteria on it
  • If staph bacteria are on your skin and you cut yourself or have another injury with an open wound, you can get a staph infection

How Is a Staph Infection Diagnosed?

Staph infection is diagnosed with a physical exam and patient history, along with blood tests and imaging tests in some cases. 

Blood tests for staph infection include: 

Imaging tests for staph infection include:

What Is the Treatment for a Staph Infection?

Staph infection is treated with antibiotics. The choice of antibiotic depends on whether the staph infection is methicillin-resistant staph (MRSA) or methicillin-susceptible staph (MSSA). 

Antibiotics used to treat staph infection may include: 

If there are any intravascular devices being used, they should be removed. 

In some cases, surgery may be needed to treat staph infection:

  • Drainage or debridement of abscesses 
  • Removal of the prosthesis for infections involving a prosthetic joint 

What Are Complications of a Staph Infection?

Complications of a staph infection include: 

  • Joint infection (septic arthritis)
  • Bone infection (osteomyelitis)
  • Infection of skeletal muscle (pyomyositis)
  • Inflammation of the inner lining of the heart (endocarditis)
  • Pneumonia
  • Sepsis, a severe, life-threatening response to infection
  • Death

How Do You Prevent a Staph Infection?

  • Keep hands clean and wash hands frequently 
    • Wash with soap and water or used an alcohol-based hand sanitizer, especially
      • Before and after changing bandages
      • After touching an infected wound
      • After touching dirty clothing or surfaces
  • Cover wounds with clean, dry bandages until healed
    • Do not pick at or pop sores
    • Discard bandages and tape in the trash
  • Do not share personal items that contact skin, such as clothing, towels, razors, and needles
  • Tell all your healthcare providers if you have been diagnosed with a resistant staph infection (MRSA)

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Reviewed on 12/9/2020
References
https://www.cdc.gov/vitalsigns/staph/index.html

https://www.cdc.gov/mrsa/index.html

https://emedicine.medscape.com/article/228816-overview