1. Health
Trisha Torrey

Is It a Spider Bite? Or Is It MRSA?

By May 9, 2008

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I noticed a spider on my bedroom wall this morning. Then another one, and then another one! They are no longer on my walls, and hopefully out of my bedroom -- but seeing them reminded me about a story I'd read recently about some confusion between spider bites, and the red, raw, horrible boils caused by MRSA.

You've probably heard of MRSA (pronounced MER-sah). It's a form of superbug, short for methicillin-resistant staphylococcus aureus. It's often acquired by hospital patients, usually those who are elderly, or have had surgery, or some other kind of open wound. People with compromised immune systems are most likely to acquire MRSA. It's a superbug because the bacteria has learned to be stronger than any of the drugs developed to kill it. Sadly, it's very difficult to get rid of, and since the patient was usually sick or debilitated to begin with, many die from MRSA.

MRSA can be acquired in other ways, and during the past year, more and more reports of CA-MRSA, meaning Community Acquired MRSA have been reported. Young people have died -- usually (but not always) students who have used the showers in the high school gym, or someone who touched infected equipment at a workout center.

MRSA is everywhere -- even residing on the skin of most of us. It doesn't make everyone sick. If someone is strong and healthy to begin with, then he may carry MRSA around, having no idea he has MRSA on his skin, and can infect someone else whose immune system isn't strong enough to resist it.

Knowing almost anyone can pick it up, and if we are run down enough, or sick from something else, MRSA bacteria can infect any of us, then it makes sense to have some idea of what it looks like. As mentioned above, the red skin boils of MRSA can be mistaken for spider bites -- even by the professionals.

So here's a resource for you. If you have a strange looking red spot on your skin, that may itch or may hurt or ache, or even burns -- take a look at some of these photos.

Is it a spider bite?

Or is it an infection, even a MRSA infection?

Knowing the differences will help you talk to your doctor, and will improve your chances of getting the right diagnosis -- and the right treatment.
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