Last updated: April 14, 2021
Staphylococcus aureus (known as “staph”) is a common bacterium that is carried on the skin or in the nose of healthy people. Approximately 30% of people carry staph bacteria, and most never develop any symptoms. Staph is one of the leading causes of skin infections, and when an infection does occur, it is usually mild.
Methicillin-Resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA)
MRSA is a type of Staphylococcus aureus which is resistant to some antibiotics that are used to treat skin infections. Methicillin is an antibiotic similar to penicillin and amoxicillin. MRSA was once found mainly in hospital patients, but now it is not uncommon to find MRSA in community settings.
An infection occurs when the staph bacteria enter the skin, usually through cuts, scrapes or other breaks in the skin (such as tattoos and body piercings). Infections may be in the form of folliculitis (infection around hair follicles), boils, impetigo or abscesses. Skin infections can be red, hot, swollen and tender and have pus or other drainage.
How Staph Spreads
Staph infections are spread by direct physical contact with the bacteria. The contact is frequently skin-to-skin, but it can be spread through contact with contaminated surfaces or personal items. Spread of staph infections has occurred through skin-to-skin contact when playing sports, such as football or wrestling, or from surfaces in gyms and locker rooms. Closely confined environments, such as day care centers, military barracks, homeless shelters and jails, are places where staph infections can spread easily. Spread has also occurred with people receiving tattoos.
Staph infections are treatable. The treatment may include drainage of the infection site and/or treatment with antibiotics. There are antibiotics available for all forms of staph infections, including MRSA.
References and Additional Reading
For more information: Communicable Diseases Program,
Anne Arundel County Department of Health, 410-222-7254