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What are the signs and symptoms of a MRSA infection?

The incubation period (time between infection and start of symptoms) is variable and may depend on the particular strain of MRSA and the person's immunity. Most MRSA infections are skin and soft tissue infections that produce the following signs and symptoms:

  • Cellulitis, an infection of the skin or the fat and tissues under the skin, usually starting as small red bumps in the skin. It includes redness, swelling of the tissues, warmth, and tenderness.
  • Boils (pus-filled infections of hair follicles)
  • Abscesses (collections of pus in or under the skin)
  • Sty (an infection of an oil gland of the eyelid)
  • Carbuncles (infections larger than an abscess, usually with several openings to the skin)
  • Impetigo (a skin infection with pus-filled blisters)
  • Rash or skin redness (skin appears to be reddish or have red-colored areas)

All of these skin infections are painful.

A major problem with MRSA (and occasionally other staph infections) is that occasionally the skin infection can spread to almost any other organ in the body. When this happens, it is a deep or invasive infection that can spread to the blood and infect internal organs. MRSA infections can cause complications such as infection of heart valves (endocarditis), gangrene or death of the soft tissues (necrotizing fasciitis), and bone or joint infections (osteomyelitis or septic arthritis). This can be deadly. Fever, chills, low blood pressure, joint pains, severe headaches, shortness of breath, and rash over most of the body are symptoms of sepsis (blood poisoning), which requires emergency medical attention.

Reviewed on 6/30/2017

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