Battling MRSA: A Deadly Bacteria Becomes More Prevalent
One of our reporters is not gathering the news; instead, he is making it. You have not seen Henry Graff in his usual reporting role because he is in the hospital recovering from a very aggressive and dangerous infection.
Henry has Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus Aureus (MRSA). MRSA is a staph infection that is about four times more prevalent than it was only a decade ago and it can be deadly.
Henry went to the hospital on September 22 with a skin infection. Earlier that week, he noticed a red bump on his abdomen and went to his primary care doctor. He was given oral antibiotics but they did not work.
Henry Graff said, "It started off as a scratch under my belly button on Wednesday. It got irritated on Thursday. I noticed like a red bump around it, it was getting, the skin around it, was getting hard and red."
Only three days later, the pain was so intense he went to the emergency room.
"I went to bed Friday night, woke up Saturday morning, and I was in the worst pain I think I've ever felt in my entire life. And it had gotten even bigger and the redness and the infection started to spread down my legs." Henry stated. "I came here Saturday morning at 9 a.m. and at noon they had me on the operating table."
Dr. Daniel Sawyer, an infectious disease expert, stated, "Henry developed a small skin boil that progressed and became very aggressively infected with an organism we call MRSA."
MRSA is a staph infection. However, MRSA is a highly resistant form of staph, and medical technicians must culture it in the laboratory so doctors can know how to treat it. After Henry's operation, they incubated his tissue sample, and diagnosed him with MRSA.
"What we know about his strain of MRSA is that it is much more aggressive than the usual staph," Dr. Sawyer said. "Up to 25 percent of people who acquire this on the skin require hospitalization."
Ten years ago, Henry's chances of contracting MRSA were a lot lower. MRSA used to affect only about 1 in 5 people who got it. Dr. Sawyer says MRSA now affects almost 4 out of 5 people who get staph.
"A decade ago it was unusual, but it has been looked at in a big multicenter trial that looked at patients coming from the community to emergency room, 11 different medical centers and if one looks at these staph infections coming from the community, 70 percent are this particular organism."
It is frightening because it can be fatal. Henry stated, "It's tough. I mean, you know, it sucks. There's a lot of pain with it but you have to stay positive because it could be worse and it's not. They can fix it and that's the good thing."
Dr. Sawyer says specialized antibiotics combined with surgery will heal Henry, but warns MRSA could become even more dangerous over time.
"The danger is that it will become more resistant than it is now. It's already difficult to treat infection, as you can see with Henry, being a healthy individual."
Sawyer says the best way to protect yourself is to wash your hands regularly, and use hand sanitizer. He also notes everybody has staph in and around your nose, so it is best to keep your hands away from your face.
Click here for more on personal prevention of MRSA, from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.