Staphylococcus aureus bacteria, often known simply as staph, are bacteria commonly carried in the nose and on the skin of healthy people. Staph often causes no problems, but can sometimes cause infections, usually on the skin. When the bacteria don’t respond to the antibiotic methicillin or others like it, such as oxacillin, penicillin, amoxicillin and cephalexin, it’s called MRSA (methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus).
MRSA infections can be contagious. The bacteria is spread through casual contact with a person who is infected or contact with an object that has been contaminated with MRSA, such as towels, sheets, wound dressings, razors, tubs, sports uniforms and other clothes, workout areas, sports equipment or countertops. They’re not spread by coughing or sneezing. MRSA infections can be hard to treat, and some can be quite serious.
Most MRSA infections are found in older adults and people with weakened immune systems, typically in hospitals and other health care settings, such as nursing homes and dialysis centers. These are called health care-associated infections, or HA-MRSA. These infections may appear in surgical wounds, the urinary tract, bloodstream and the lungs (pneumonia).
More recently, MRSA infections also have begun affecting otherwise healthy people who have not been hospitalized or undergone medical procedures. These are called community-associated infections, or CA-MRSA. At-risk groups include young children, athletes in contact sports such as football and wrestling, or anyone who shares towels or athletic equipment, has a weakened immune system or lives in crowded or unsanitary conditions. MRSA infections can occur anywhere, but the odds of getting an infection are greater when the “5 Cs” are present.
The “5 Cs” are common in schools, dormitories, military barracks, households, correctional facilities and daycare centers.
Unless directed by a physician, students with MRSA infections should not be excluded from attending school. Exclusion from school should be reserved for those with wound drainage that can’t be covered and contained with a clean, dry bandage and for those who can’t maintain good personal hygiene.
SIGNS AND SYMPTOMS
CA-MRSA infections usually appear on the skin as pimples or boils. An infection could be mistaken for a spider bite. These infections most often appear around an existing cut or abrasion or on areas of the body covered by hair, such as the back of the neck, groin, buttocks, armpits or in beards. Signs of infection include fever, redness, swelling, warmth and tenderness around the wound, and a yellowish-white fluid or pus draining from the wound.
Because their immune systems aren’t fully developed, CA-MRSA can be quite serious in children. A cut or scrape can turn into a widespread infection. To be on the safe side, keep an eye on any minor skin problem your child may have to make sure there are no signs of infection.
If you’re concerned your son may have a MRSA infection, seek medical care. Ask his doctor to check the infected wound for MRSA. The doctor may rub a cotton swab over the infected area of skin and send it to a lab for further review. The lab also can do a sensitivity test on the bacteria to determine which medicine should be prescribed to fight the infection. This will prevent treatment with an ineffective antibiotic, which could lead to a more serious illness.
If your child develops a MRSA skin or wound infection, his doctor may treat it by draining the infected fluid from the wound or giving a course of antibiotics, or both. Draining a boil or abscess should only be done by your doctor or another qualified health care professional.
Follow instructions carefully if your doctor prescribes an antibiotic for your child to take by mouth or place on his skin. Even if the infection is getting better, give all the prescribed doses, unless your doctor tells you to stop. Do not save unfinished antibiotics to use at another time. If the infection does not improve or seems to get worse, call your doctor for advice.
The best way to keep your child from developing a MRSA infection is to follow some common-sense personal hygiene practices.
|DISEASE||TRANSMISSION||INCUBATION PERIOD||CONTAGIOUS PERIOD|
|Bronchiolitis||Spread via respiratory droplets through sneezing or coughing||2 to 10 days||Onset of cough until 7 to 10 days|
|Chickenpox (Varicella)||Airborne or via skin contact with lesions||10 to 21 days||2 days before rash appears until all sores have crusted|
|Colds||Spread via respiratory droplets or direct contact with infected person or object||2 to 4 days||Onset of runny nose until fever is gone
|Croup (viral)||Spread via respiratory droplets or contact with infected person or object||2 to 6 days||Onset of cough until fever is gone
|Diarrhea||Contact with feces||Depends on causative agent (bacterial 1 to 7 days; viral 1 to 4 days)||Depends on causative agent; usually until stools are formed. (See specific agents)
|Fifth Disease (Parvo virus)||Spread via respiratory droplets||Usually 4 to 14 days, but can be as long as 21 days||7 days before rash until rash begins|
|Hand-foot-mouth (Coxsackie)||Spread via respiratory droplets, fecal/oral contact or fluid from blisters||3 to 6 days||Onset of mouth ulcers until fever is gone (respiratory tract shedding usually 1 week; fecal can be several weeks)
|Hepatitis A||Fecal contact||15 to 50 days||1 to 2 weeks before jaundice begins until 1 week after onset of jaundice
|Hepatitis B||Contact with infected blood/body fluids||45 to 160 days||Indefinite period. If Hepatitis e antigen is positive, at risk for transmission|
|Herpes Simplex||Oral/genital skin contact||2 days to 2 weeks||Initial infection: 1 week to several weeks (oral/genital). Recurrent infection: 3 to 4 days
|Impetigo||Direct skin contact with lesion and contact with infected objects||7 to 10 days||Onset of sores until 1 day on antibiotics
|Influenza||Spread via respiratory droplets or contact with infected person or object||1 to 4 days||24 hours before onset of symptoms until fever is gone, about 7 days
|Lice||Spread via contact with skin or hair||10 to 14 days||Onset of itch until 24 hours after first treatment
|Meningococcus||Spread via respiratory droplets||1 to 10 days||7 days before symptoms to 24 hours after treatment begins
|Mononucleosis||Contact with infected saliva||30 to 50 days||Undetermined, but usually 6 weeks
|MRSA||Spread via contact with infected person, person who is a carrier of the disease, or contaminated surface.||One to 10 days||Varies depending on whether infection is active and if person is seeking treatment|
|Pertussis (whooping cough)||Spread via respiratory droplets||Five to 21 days||Two weeks after onset of cough or until five days on antibiotics
|Pink-eye or Conjunctivitis (bacterial)||Spread via contact with eye drainage
||2 to 7 days||Onset of pus until symptoms have resolved
|Rotavirus||Direct or indirect contact with infected people||2 to 4 days||Before onset of diarrhea until 10 to 12 days after onset
|Salmonella, Shigella, Campylobacter||Fecal contact||Salmonella - 12 to 36 hours
Shigella & Campylobacter - 1 to 7 days
|Contagious until diarrhea is resolved; sometimes with prolonged excretions with salmonella
|Scabies||Contact with clothing, bedding or skin of infected animal or person||4 to 6 weeks (previous exposure 1 to 4 days)||Onset of itch until one treatment completed
|Scarlet fever||Spread via airborne respiratory droplets and direct contact||1 to 2 days||Onset of fever or rash until 1 day on antibiotics
|Sore throat (viral)||Spread via respiratory droplets||2 to 5 days||Onset of sore throat until fever is gone|
|Strep throat||Spread via respiratory droplets||2 to 5 days||Onset of sore throat until 1 day on antibiotics|
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