Recently, there has been a lot of national attention centered on outbreaks of MRSA (methicillin resistant staph aureus) and staphylococcal infections involving football players, schools and the general public. For dermatologists, at least one patient in our clinic per day has had some issue with staph (pronounced “staff”), whether it’s a patient with recurrent folliculitis, a surgical wound infection, a patient with dermatitis that has recently worsened or a child with impetigo.
There are 30 types of staph bacteria but the most common to cause skin infection is Staph aureus. A common reason to get infection is a recent trauma such as a scratch or cut in the skin or contact with a person or surface that harbors staph. Infections can look like pimples or boils or may be red, painful lesions that contain pus or other drainage. Staph infections can turn into impetigo which presents like a sticky, honey-colored crust on the skin or into cellulitis which makes the skin feel hot, red and swollen.
Most infections need little or no treatment, as they resolve with simple drainage or other measures. Severe infections can present as pneumonia, meningitis, endocarditis, sepsis or osteomyelitis (infections of the lungs, brain, heart, bloodstream, or bone respectively). People more at risk for these infections include people with chronic disease, diabetes, are immunosuppressed from medications or cancer, have lung disease or are hospitalized on a ventilator, catheter or in ICU/long-term care.
Skin infections account for six million visits/year to doctor’s offices in the United States. Over the past decade, ER admissions for skin infections have tripled in number. MRSA, staph resistant to antibiotics such as penicillin, is found more commonly at high schools, sports teams, gyms and prisons than in years past. It is believed that two percent of the normal population carries MRSA.
Fortunately, in the past few years, the rate of infections had decreased by half, especially with hospital acquired infections. FBN
CARIN CAIN, M.D., FAAD, is a graduate of Mayo School of Medicine. She received her dermatology training at the University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics, after which she served as a chief of dermatology in the United States Air Force, both in the U.S. and overseas. She has been part of the physician staff at Northern Arizona Dermatology Center since 1998.