Staphylococcus aureus, often referred to simply as "staph," are bacteria healthy people can carry on the skin or in the nose. Staph bacteria commonly cause skin infections, such as boils. Most of these infections are not life-threatening.
In addition to skin infections, staph bacteria can cause infections in the blood, in the bones and in the lungs (pneumonia). Most serious staph bacteria infections are treated with an antibiotic related to penicillin. Over the past 50 years, some staph bacteria have become resistant to antibiotics, including the commonly used penicillin-related antibiotics. These resistant bacteria are called methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus, or MRSA (CDC, 2010).
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the Texas State Department of Health and Human Services recommend that anyone with symptoms should seek medical attention. There is no vaccine available specifically for a staph infection, including MRSA. Locally, you can get health care services from:
- Harris County Public Health & Environmental Services Clinics
- Public Clinics in the greater Houston Area (Gateway to Care)
Information available in English, Spanish, and Vietnamese.
Symptoms of the disease
Most staph skin infections, including MRSA, appear as a bump or infected area on the skin that may be red, swollen, painful, warm to the touch, full of pus or other drainage and accompanied by a fever. If you or someone in your family experiences these signs and symptoms, cover the area with a bandage and contact your healthcare professional.
Transmission of the disease
You can get MRSA through direct contact with an infected person or by sharing personal items, such as towels or razors that have touched infected skin.
Incidence of staph infections
Recent data show that Americans visit the doctor approximately 12 million times each year to get checked for suspected Staph or MRSA skin infection.
When to Return to School/Work
The CDC and Texas State Department of Health Services provide the following general guidelines to determine when one can return to work after developing a staph infection:
NOTE: Individuals who have had a staph infection, including MRSA ,and received treatment should stay away from school and work for as long as symptoms exist and when a fever is present. This could be for an extended period of time. It is highly recommended that an individual seek guidance from their health care professional or the local health department to determine when it is appropriate to return to work or school.
For more information
To learn more about staph bacteria, please talk with a health care provider or call the Texas Department of State Health Services (DSHS) at 800.252.9152 or 512.458.7284. For general information about staph infections, visit the websites of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).