Mentioning MRSA to someone outside of the medical field often elicits a blank stare or a vague look of confusion and mistrust. In fact, going so far as to mention Methicillin Resistant Staphylococcus Aureus (MRSA) is usually enough to end a conversation completely. For the most part, the destructive, life-altering scope of MRSA isn’t known to the general public—nor is the risk of acquiring MRSA in the hospital. Knowing many patients and health care workers, I’ve seen prognoses that have varied from life-threatening and permanently disabling, to non-deadly, but career ending. This is the story of two acquaintances of mine: one who contracted MRSA in the community at large, and another who contracted MRSA while at the hospital.
Down on her luck, living in a small, government subsidized apartment, my first acquaintance was forced to share her space with several other near-homeless individuals. Crowded in a tiny room, many of her roommates were poorly fed and suffered from mental illness. As is the case in many situations of extreme poverty, drug abuse and poor hygiene were rampant—as were skin infections. Such close-knit quarters were a breeding ground for CA-MRSA, or Community Acquired MRSA. Community Acquired MRSA differs, in that it’s a) often more aggressive b) less resistant to antibiotics than its hospital counterpart.
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Everyone is looking for a better way to save these kids. Every kid we take care of, it’s like our own child; that’s why we were here - Dr. John Bradley, Chief of Infectious Disease at Rady Children’s Hospital
A Carmel Valley private school was closed last month due to the possibility of one of the students having a MRSA infection. All campus activities were shut down and classes cancelled on a Thursday afternoon until being reopened the following Monday. It was suspected a female student returning from a retreat that very day to the school had potentially been infected. A letter posted on the campus website announced that the private school would be thoroughly cleaned and sanitized by trained personnel. “We feel that we are best serving the interests and well-being of our students, families and employees by taking this precaution.”
According to the national Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, MRSA rates have been on the decline in hospital settings in the last decade while community-acquired cases have increased a notable degree. Just ten years ago MRSA infections were very rare in San Diego, but as Dr. John Bradley points out, the disease is becoming more “resistant and more virulent than ever.” MRSA infections can take the outward appearance of physically damaged skin: painful red areas, a raised bump, abscesses and open sores. MRSA can also induce symptoms of fever and chills. Early detection and treatment, especially in children, reduces the potential severity MRSA as it can be life-threatening and often lead to limb amputation. The invasive cases are extremely dangerous as they can cause a child to die within a few days.
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