By JARRETT TERRILL
MRSA (methicillin-resistant Staphylo-coccus aureus) is a staph infection that is not easily treated with antibiotics. However, it is relatively easy to acquire and spreads under the skin at an alarming rate. Local emergency rooms are seeing a rise in the number of MRSA cases that they treat.
Last week, the Sun-Sentinel noted that “infections from a relatively mild variety of drug-resistant staph have been on the rise in South Florida in recent months,” seemingly downplaying the phenomenon by calling it a “weak strain,” and reporting that “no one is calling the jump in cases a serious danger.” This could be misleading, as the treatments required to treat the bacteria often involve surgery, intravenous medication, lengthy hospital stays, and sometimes even amputation. Those treatments are no guarantee that the infection will not reoccur.
The LGBT community in South Florida has certainly been affected by the recent spike in MRSA cases. What is not clear at this point is whether or not our community has been affected to a greater degree than others. It is known, however, that persons with HIV, children, and the elderly are at greater risk for opportunistic infections, like staph.
Historically, MRSA was thought to be transmitted primarily in prisons and hospitals, or by sharing intravenous drugs. That is seemingly no longer the case. One person in four is now known to be an asymptomatic carrier of staph bacteria, and one in 50 have a strain that is specifically classified as MRSA.
MRSA can be spread by skin-to-skin contact. Not all patients are sure how they acquired it. Like all bacterial infections, humidity and a general lack of cleanliness may be contributing factors. It is suggested by medical professionals that regular hand-washing and early detection will decrease the likelihood and severity of the disease. MRSA may initially appear to be something harmless, such as an ingrown hair, cat scratch, or acne. The condition is made worse by attempts to puncture or rupture the site of infection.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) “The biggest risk factor for MRSA infection is open or broken skin (such as a wound or surgical site); however, MRSA infections can occur even on areas of the skin where there is no obvious wound or break in the skin.” Experts say that keeping a clean, well-ventilated home will reduce the chance of infection.
Erin Carr-Jordon, a health activist in Arizona, was recently banned from McDonald’s restaurants in that state after she swab-tested their playground equipment and discovered traces of MRSA. “Contaminated items and surfaces” are also cited by the CDC as sources of MRSA infection.