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.


Heart diagram with labels in English. Blue com...

Image via Wikipedia

BP takes a long hard look at INFECTIVE ENDOCARDITIS, a potentially life-threatening infection of the heart valve. Mainly caused by bacteria entering the skin through injecting, IE can be extremely unpleasant and has a nasty habit of ironing you out completely if left untreated. Know the signs & symptoms.

Although relatively uncommon in comparison to most health problems intravenous drug users encounter, it is extremely important for us to be aware of infective endocarditis (IE) for several reasons:

First of all, Infective Endocarditis has a high mortality rate, and almost always kills the patient if left untreated;

Secondly, it is often preventable. Knowledge of the symptoms of IE, early diagnosis and correct manage­ment are what makes all the difference to your recovery.

And thirdly, a hygienic injecting regime is crucial when avoiding the types of bacteria that cause endocarditis.

In most cases, these organisms are streptococci (“strep”), staphylococci (“staph”) or members of other species of bacteria that normally live on body surfaces, entering the bloodstream through a break in the skin, as happens through injecting,

What is it?

Explaining what endocarditis is requires a little translation of the name; endo- means inside, -card- refers to the heart (like ‘cardiac’) and the -itis bit signifies a process of inflammation. Combining all three gives you an inflammation of the inside of the heart, usually caused by an infection, but occasionally by a fungus.

To read the rest of the article (which appeared in Black Poppy Issue 8) click here

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