MRSA panic

There is so much apathy in the country these days about a number of issues. Unfortunately, the only way most people learn about pertinent issues is during a crisis situation (image credit), or during a tragedy. This is evident now through the California wildfire situation. I admit that I really did know much about the specifics of how wildfires happen until recently reading about them.

The same can be said of MRSA. I think it's reasonable to say that most of the public didn't know what MRSA was until recently, especially before the tragic death of that Virginia teen.

Now, it seems to be everywhere in the media. And, our office is getting calls about this every day. In today's Newsday, an associate professor at NYU School of Medicine outlines what's probably been happening in doctor's offices across the country.

But thanks to widespread media coverage of the CDC report, people are worried. Last week many of my patients called me with fresh concerns over their usual pimples and boils, and a frightened neighbor refused to shake my hand, pointing out that because I worked in a hospital I might be in contact with the superbug.

Such hypervigilance will do nothing to eradicate MRSA. Quite the contrary, in fact. Excessive concerns over rare bacteria lead patients to pressure physicians for antibiotics to treat the slightest sniffle or scratch. Though more than 90 percent of upper respiratory infections are viral and don't respond to antibiotics, and though most skin bumps go away on their own, physicians are nevertheless quick to overprescribe oral antibiotics. This bad habit leads to more impervious bacteria, which develop resistance to existing treatment.

This is an interesting national article, and I encourage you to check it out. But, when it comes down to it, all politics is local, right? People really don't learn all the ins and outs of an issue until it hits home. Here is the beginning of an article from one of our local papers today:
Niles — A McKinley High School football player has contracted a drug-resistant staph bacteria infection, sparking city health and school district officials to take precautionary measures. ‘‘We are taking precautions,’’ Niles schools Superintendent Rocco Adduci said.

City Health Commissioner and school physician Dr. William Eddy said it takes 48 to 72 hours to determine that a staph infection is Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus Aureus (MRSA). The confirmation of the Niles case was made Tuesday.

But, what I really enjoyed was the end of this local article. It is so pragmatic. It makes total sense. It's definitely what this community needs right now. And, of course, the quote is not from a doctor, but from a nurse and mother. I couldn't have said it better myself.
Still, infections can happen, according to parent Cindy Rosenberger of Niles. Although she’s a nurse in a local hospital and taught her kids how to wash their hands and prevent infection, three of her children — one of them an athlete in the schools — have come down with staph infections over the years. ‘‘It’s definitely a concern,’’ she said. ‘‘You hear of schools where there are staph infections, where kids may have died.’’

When her children had staph infections, Rosenberger watched for signs of illness, such as fever and chills, and also made sure they finished the prescriptions their doctor gave them. ‘‘Kids want to take one or two of the doses, and then when the symptoms go away, they don’t want to take any more,’’ she said. ‘‘I always make sure they finish them.’’

Update (1pm): Niles player has MRSA infection