Cellulitis itself is not contagious, but bacteria that cause it can be spread from person to person or from a surface to a person. This is especially true of MRSA, which is short for methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus. The bacterium that causes this type of skin tissue infection is a common part of the natural flora of skin. When the immune system is weakened or there is a break in the skin, these bacteria can take hold and cause a number of infections. Since the bacterium that causes this type of infection in skin tissue is so common, it would be difficult to track the origination of the infection.

MRSA and Other Bacteria that Causes Skin Tissue Infections

There are two types of bacteria that commonly cause cellulitis and both bacteria can spread to others. When it has spread it may or may not cause cellulitis. Instead it can cause other infections or the person who has contact with the bacteria may develop a colonization of bacteria. This is when there are no symptoms but the person can still spread the bacteria to others.

These are the two most common types of bacteria that can cause skin tissue infections:

  1. Streptococcus
  2. Staphylococcus

Occasionally Haemophilus influenzae type B can cause cellulitis. This type of bacteria is more common in children than adults. Other types of staph infection and can easily spread to others. Gram-negative organisms, fungi, and anaerobes may also cause this type of infection in the deeper layers of the skin, but it is not common.

How the Bacteria that Causes Cellulitis Is Spread

The scariest type of bacteria that can cause cellulitis is methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) because it is so hard to treat and can spread rapidly throughout the body. These bacteria can spread from a cellulitis patient to others but may not cause cellulitis in the recipient.

Strep and staph bacteria are spread in the following ways:

  • Direct contact
  • Colonized bacteria contact
  • Contact with contaminated surfaces
  • During personal care
  • Contact with bodily fluids
  • Intimate contact
  • Coughing and sneezing
  • Ingesting contaminated food
  • Contact with infected animals

Harmful bacteria and viruses are everywhere and cannot be avoided. Hand washing with soap and water is a good start on protection from contagious infections and diseases. Most people have an immune system that is strong enough to prevent getting sick from contact with the bacteria that causes cellulitis, but not everyone does so some people have a higher risk of becoming sick.

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Risk Factors that Contribute to a Cellulitis Infection

Any illness or treatments that causes the immune system to become weakened or to shut down will increase the risk of getting a contagious bacteria or virus. The following risk factors can increase the chance of becoming infected with staph, strep, or other bacteria that can cause cellulitis:

  • Injury or medical procedure that causes a deep break in the skin
  • IV drug use
  • Chronic illness, treatment, medication, etc. that weakens the immune system
  • Obesity
  • Rash, allergy, eczema, chicken pox, MRSA, or other skin problems
  • Lymphedema which can cause cracks in the skin

Anyone who has had a history of cellulitis is more likely to have it reoccur. When there are factors that increase the risk of getting sick from a contagious bacteria like the ones that cause cellulitis, it is important to prevent an infection.

Though cellulitis is not contagious, the microorganisms that cause it are contagious so precautions must be taken to prevent an infection.