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What Is the MRSA Virus?

MRSA pathogens are resistant to antibiotics.
MRSA is most frequently treated with an IV drip of vancomycin.
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  • Written By: Alex Paul
  • Edited By: C. Wilborn
  • Last Modified Date: 16 July 2014
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The MRSA virus is not actually a virus; it is a type of bacteria. Bacteria that are part of the MRSA family are often resistant to antibiotics and are sometimes referred to as "superbugs." Although the bacteria are found on the skin of many people, problems arise when the number of bacteria increases to an unsafe level. The MRSA virus can mutate over time and become even more resistant to antibiotics and therefore more dangerous to humans. There are two main strains of this bacteria: one that is contracted during healthcare and one that is contracted in other public places.

MRSA stands for methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus. Initially, the bacteria was highly treatable with antibiotics, but over time has become more and more difficult to eradicate. This is especially true for people who already have a weak immune system or long-term health problems.

There are some people who are more likely to contract the MRSA virus than others. For example, those who work in a healthcare setting, such as a hospital or clinic, have an increased risk of contraction. People who have weakened immune systems, such as those with cancer or HIV, are also more likely to contract the disease. Other risk populations include young and old people, people with diabetes, and students who live in dormitories.

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MRSA can infect different areas of the body, and the symptoms can vary. For example, the skin can become infected and exhibit symptoms such as abscesses, cellulitis, and boils. Whenever an open wound becomes infected, a doctor should be consulted immediately. In general, any wound that has become infected with the MRSA virus will become swollen and red.

If the MRSA bacteria infects the blood stream, then symptoms can show in all areas of the body. Some symptoms include septic shock, which can cause a reduction in blood pressure and failure of vital organs; meningitis; and pneumonia. It goes without saying that anyone who has severe symptoms such as these should visit a doctor immediately.

When caught early, the MRSA virus can usually be contained. If it is allowed to spread, treatment becomes very difficult due to its resistance to most antibiotics. For this reason it is important for people who come into contact with the bacteria on a regular basis to know and understand the symptoms.

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