Staph Infection – a very interesting run down on an injectors worst enemy

bug for today: staphylococcus aureus

Staphylococcus aureus (Image by estherase via Flickr)

I found a very interesting article on Staphylococcus infection. There is floating bits of discussion about it in the harm reduction scene and many people (especially injectors) have heard of it. It is interesting for drug injectors as its an infection that turns up when we get abscesses, or endocarditis (infection in heart valve), or osteomyelitis (infection in bone) cellulitis (in skin) and blood poisoning. Here is an article that, in layman’s language, talks about staph, its life on the body and how it gets to play a role in so many infections. Definitely useful information to have if you either inject drugs or you work with injectors and/or harm reduction. Here’s an excerpt of the article and a link to the page…

“….Anyone can develop a Staph infection, although certain groups of people are at greater risk, including newborn infants, breast feeding women, and people with chronic conditions such as diabetes, cancer, vascular disease, and lung disease. Injecting drug users, those with skin injuries or disorders, intravenous catheters, surgical incisions, and those with a weakened immune system all have an increased risk of developing Staph infections.

Symptoms and Signs

Staphylococcal disease of the skin usually results in a localized collection of pus, known as an abscess, boil, or furuncle. The affected area may be red, swollen, and painful. Drainage or pus is common.

Skin infections are the most common type of disease produced by Staphylococcus. Staph infections of the skin can progress to impetigo (a crusting of the skin) or cellulitis (inflammation of the connective tissue under the skin, leading to swelling and redness of the area). In rare cases, a serious complication known as scalded skin syndrome can develop. In breastfeeding women, Staph can result in mastitis (inflammation of the breast) or in abscess of the breast.

Staphylococcal pneumonia predominantly affects people with underlying lung disease and can lead to abscess formation within the lungs.

Infection of the heart valves (endocarditis) can lead to heart failure. Spread of Staphylococci to the bones can result in severe inflammation of the bones known as osteomyelitis.

When Staph bacteria are present in the blood, a condition known as Staphylococcal sepsis (widespread infection of the bloodstream) or Staphylococcal bacteremia exists. Spread of the organisms to the bloodstream is known as bacteremia or sepsis. When Staph is in the blood (bacteremia or sepsis) it can cause high fevers, chills, and low blood pressure.Staphylococcal sepsis is a leading cause of shock and circulatory collapse, leading to death, in people with severe burns over large areas of the body. When untreated, Staph aureus sepsis carries a mortality (death) rate of over 80 percent.

Toxic shock syndrome is an illness caused by toxins secreted by Staph aureus bacteria growing under conditions in which there is little or no oxygen.

Staphylococcal infections should be contagious and can be transmitted from person to person. Pus from infected wounds may contain the bacteria, proper hygiene and handwashing is required when caring for Staph-infected wounds.

Are Staph infections contagious?

Staph skin infections are contagious. They can spread by:

* Skin to skin contact with infected person

* Sharing razors, towels, clothes, bed linens, sport equipment (athletes!), toys

* Walking barefoot or sitting around swimming pools

* Contact with infected pets

* Auto-infection by nose picking and skin scratching

* Sneezing – when droplets from the nose of infected person (or staph carrier) fall on an injured skin of another person

To read the rest of what is a useful article – and of which an excerpt, click here.

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  1. I had a miss that was14 days old almost healed and me and a friend was pushing a truck and had to use extreme strength and I experienced a severe burning stabbing pain at the injection site which is located on the underneath upper arm area about 5 inches below the armpit now I have a knot the size of a very large egg and my whole under arm area is beat red pain like I’ve never had 23 years of boo boos but this scares the check out of me

  2. Anna

     /  December 18, 2016

    My fiancé shoots heroin! he was in the hospital with sepsis for a month about 8 months ago now he has all the same symptoms again and I’m so scared I am taking him to the hospital right now but I’m wondering what I can do in the meantime ? Because it will take half hour to get there

  3. Anonymous

     /  September 7, 2016

    Okay so I’m freaking out. I made a new friend (she’s an ex-meth user) she told me she had gotten Staph from her use and did NOT take antibiotics to treat it. Instead she just lanced her sores. We shared some drinks and she gave me a peck on the lips, but she also had unprotected sex with a friend of mine. Being a nursing assistant I know how contagious Staph is. I’m not so much worried about myself as I am my friend who had sex with her. If she didn’t take antibiotics, how high are the chances that she still has staph and did she spread it to us?

  4. James

     /  August 25, 2016

    I am the biggest dumbass in the world and i shot up old blood that was in my syringe mixed with meth. I know something is wrong with my body now because i have red spots over my heart. I went to the er and the doctor said he simply doesnt know what it is. I probably need to get a second opinion. I am now living in a sober living home where i am drug tested reguraly and i am working hard on my recovery. Part of that is trying to repair my body as best i can. Im worried i have a serious condition and i am also worried about my partner, pets, and family members i have come in contact with. If i do have staff how is it treated and how can i get my loved ones treated? Thank u

  5. Vicky

     /  July 2, 2016

    My daughter went to the ER early this morning and her arms ” suddenly” started swelling, fingers swelled like sausages, she severe pain and raised bumps from the elbows down. She is an IV heroin user who swears she’s been clean for 2 months now. She says they told her this was a reaction from IV drug use that took 2 months to show. Is this possible? Can it take that long? I suspected she was high when I spoke to her at 11 last night, the episode started at 3 AM.

  6. kristy

     /  April 25, 2016

    I am a drug user and I just shot cocaine. My limbs went numb as if I missed, but I didnt. My arm looks like it has an abscess, hardening around injection site and red streaks. My legs are swelling and I also have an outbreak of impetigo on my face that has been there for about a week. I’m concerned I may have a staph infection and shooting may have spread it or made it worse. I have been taking acetaminophen and using a warm compresses. Can you identify what is going on or give me advice?

    • Dear Kristy – Gee we have a lot of serious comments from people to catch up on at the mo – yours is one of them. I am worried by the spread of the swelling and redness etc that is moving around your body (I gather you injected in your arm – but your legs are swelling with red streaks appearing. I don’t think shooting more coke would spread the infection unless you were using it in the same area, using the same works, using the same coke which may have been contaminated with flakes of someones wound (such as your own?) or having very dirty skin -or shooting up in moist potentially grubby areas – in-between toes, groin, feet etc. Staph is always on the skin – how much of it depends on how clean you are – and whether it gets in your body depends on an entry site where injecting has allowed the staph to travel. PLEASE – get to the A&E as soon as possibvle – take your temperature IMMEDIATELY (buy a temp thing from chemist) and if it is in ANY WAY high – you have NO TIME to get to the dr – you must go NOW as you could have septicemia. That’s the worst case Kirsty – but please – don’t risk it – these bugs are too dangerous -and something could be running through your system – get to the Dr or Needle exchange if your scared or worried – or A&E. ASAP! Please take care. BP xx

  7. i am a drug user, just one heroin. ive never mainlined putting a needle in my vein however i did “muscle” the drug for about a month. it caused a severe abcess or abcesses in my leg so I quit but still snort the drug. well the abcesses in my leg finally cleared up. severely drained it daily it was painful and disgusting. well its been at least 3 months or more since i have used a needle. however abcesses came up on my back where i have obviously never put a needle. am i prone to getting these infections now? my leg has cleared up for the most part. no more drainage anyway but still a scab comes up now and again but minor in comparison. am i going to get abcesses now? they are painful. is this coincidence?

  8. termakasih infonya, sangat bermanfaat , Adriana

  9. X-drug user patient has severe cellulitis, had it for years. 5 weeks ago she developed a severe headache that is debilitating. Pain meds not having any effect on it… several trips to hospitals, MRI, X-ray show nothing. Could this be related to the Cellulitis in the blood stream? Is there anything that can be done to relieve her pain?

    • As you know we are not doctors here though many of are have a lot of experience and always do thorough research when we are trying to find an answer to something. As far as your question, it certainly does at first glance sound like it could be related to toxicity in the blood, causing the headaches. However you have said she has had the cellulitis for 5 years and the headaches have just started….has the cellulitis gotten worse lately? has any ulceration started? Have any different drugs been used such as different antibiotics etc? I can however see why pain meds wont work – it does not seem like they would. It is strange that the MRI showed nothing at all, -it may also be a clot -or migraine activity caused by inflammation that has been triggered by her cellulitis. I wonder if it is worth discussing with her doctor the idea of her taking beta blockers – propanol – as a prophylaxis approach to the headaches – they are relatively harmless but are good at preventing migraines etc as they stop blood pressure being raised or uncontrollably heightening thus causing headaches. And they are fairly mild on the system compared to so many other drugs. I think however, there certainly is a possibility of the headaches being caused by toxicity in the blood stream -a test of white blood cells would show just how her system is fighting back -I imagine they have done this if they have given her an MRI? Is she still on antibiotics? Have you looked at the side effects of these? She could need to be changed to another brand? I will do some investigating – if it is still happening and you have any more information, do see if you can add in a few more details for us which will help us investigate further. Please pass on our be. st wishes, we will try to see what we can find out. good luck to you both in the meantime. BP x

  1. Cellulitis | Find Me A Cure
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