What Is A Staph Infection?

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14-year-old McKenna Hatchett will be buried Friday, just days after being injured in soccer practice at George Rogers Clark High School in Winchester.

No one has officially listed "staph infection" as the cause of death, but
many suspect that is what cost the teen her life.

So, how easy is it to get a staph infection, and who is at risk?

Dr. Chris Nelson, an infectious disease specialist at UK, tells 27 NEWSFIRST, "Staphylococcus aureus, the full name for it, is a bacteria that lives on the skin and often in the nostrils. Normally, when living on us, it does not cause a lot of problems, but if we have a break in our skin like a scratch or an insect bite, that's when the staph bacteria can jump in and cause infection. Transmission is by direct contact, skin to skin generally."

According to Dr. Nelson, the very young and the very old are most susceptible to life threatening staph infections, but a previously healthy, athletic young woman like McKenna Hatchett is obviously not immune to it.

The doctor says, "Fortunately, those types of scenarios are very rare, but unfortunately, as we have seen recently, they do occur. We bruise ourselves every day. It's a normal thing for young, active people to do to themselves, but a bruise itself would not predispose you to an infection with staphylococcus aureus. Any time we have a break in the skin, the germ can cause infections so, yes, it can affect otherwise healthy young people. The bacteria can affect sports teams. It has been known to do that, but the most important thing to focus on is personal hygiene, making sure that we don't share sports equipment, towels, wash cloths, that kind of thing."

Dr. Nelson says women shaving under their arms often cause tiny breaks in the skin which can be problematic when it comes to staph infections.

As far as symptoms to look for, the doctor points out that the bacteria usually results in a swollen area filled with pus like a boil, and flu like symptoms are often experienced.

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