Atrium Health Navicent Infectious Disease

Staph Infections Including MRSA

Older woman putting lipstick on in the mirror

What is Staph?

Staphylococcus aureus is a bacterium that is commonly found on a person's skin and inside their sensitive mucous lined areas, such as the inside of the nose. Usually, it is harmless because of the natural protective barriers that the body has. Nevertheless, if the skin has any damage done to it, such as from a scratch or scrape, these bacteria can quickly invade the wound, which in turn causes a staph infection.

Treating Staphylococcus Infections

If the infection is on the surface of the skin, the wound is first cleaned with a disinfectant, and then an antibiotic ointment is applied. This treatment is the most effective when a person seeks medical treatment right away. However, if treatment is delayed, the wound can quickly worsen and turn into an abscess, and a doctor will have to lance the area to drain the puss out and prescribe oral antibiotics to prevent the infection from worsening. Sometimes, instead of an abscess, another type of skin infection occurs, though. Boils, impetigo, and cellulitis are all common skin conditions caused by a skin-based staph infection too.

Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA)

There are many kinds of Staphylococcus (staph) infections, but the most dangerous one of all is Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA). That is because MRSA is resistant to most prescription antibiotics that are usually given to patients, including Methicillin, which is one of the strongest antibiotics available. With no treatment to stop it, MRSA can spread rapidly throughout the body, and if it remains out of control, it can 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 Long Does it Last?

The duration of a staph infection depends on how strong a person's immune system is and how long they waited to get treatment. If the infection is minor, and only on the surface of the skin, it can generally heal in a matter of a few days to a week. But, if the infection is untreated for a significant amount of time, and it spreads throughout the body, a person can become ill for several months. If their immune system becomes too weak to fight it off, a person can even die from a staph infection or the illnesses that it causes.

The Dangers of Staph

Besides the above-mentioned risks involved with this type of infection, there is an even more dangerous aspect to staph. It is highly contagious, especially to people who have open wounds or cuts on their body. One person can pass it on to another person through physical contact and intimacy or sharing clothing or bedding with them. For this reason, many patients with serious staph infections, including MRSA, are put into isolation wards to protect other patients and the medical staff caring for them at the hospital.


To prevent staph infections, including MRSA, it is important to clean and treat all wounds and scrapes right away. See a dermatologist or general physician for any that have significant redness or appear to be worsening. Lastly, keep all wounds covered with a clean bandage, so the likeliness of spreading the infection is reduced.