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MRSA on Capitol Hill

Apr 17, 2009 | Parker Waichman LLP A House of Representatives staffer has contracted the dangerous, sometimes deadly, Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus Aureus (MRSA), likely from the House’s gymnasium, according to some on Capitol Hill, reports ABC News, citing the Congressional newspaper, The Hill.  According to a statement from the House chief administrative officer, the unnamed employee who contracted MRSA is also a member of the House Staff Fitness Center (HSFC), said CBS News.

CBS News also reported that Dr. John Bartlett—past president of the Infectious Diseases Society of America and chief of the Division of Infectious Diseases at Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine—discussed how MRSA is increasing in frequency worldwide, saying, “This is a huge national and international epidemic.  It’s all over.”  According to Dr. Gary Simon—director of the division of infectious diseases at The George Washington University—“MRSA is everywhere—30 percent of us carry it around,” adding that, “It’s ubiquitous.  You’re going to get it,” quoted CBS News.

MRSA is carried on the skin or in the nose and can affect others, with MRSA carriers exhibiting no symptoms.  MRSA can be dangerous if it reaches the bloodstream or organs, but with early and proper diagnosis—when there is a small eruption on the skin and before MRSA reaches the bloodstream—the infection is easily treated with general-purpose antibiotics, the sore is bandaged and kept clean, and the infection is cured.  There is no down time and patients can resume activities with no risk of falling ill or contaminating others.

But, without treatment or with incorrect diagnosis and treatment, the infection spreads rapidly and can lead to respiratory failure and surgeries, attacking vital organs like the lungs and heart.  Survivors are not always returned to their pre-MRSA condition, losing limbs, hearing, and full use of damaged organs.  For instance, well-known but not widely publicized, patients surviving MRSA often require amputations to cure infections.

MRSA now has two main strains, the traditional, hospital-acquired MRSA (HA-MRSA), which, said eFluxMedia in an earlier report, is more dangerous due to its overwhelming antibiotic resistance and community-acquired MRSA (CA-MRSA).  CA-MRSA originates from strain ST8:USA300 and, while more potent, is a bit easier to treat, often not needing antibiotic therapy.  Science Daily explained earlier, that MRSA are Staphylococcus aureus bacteria that are resistant to the meticillin class of antibiotics.

About 100,000 cases of invasive MRSA occur annually in the U.S. according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and, shockingly, most infections occur in hospitals and other health-care settings.  According to research conducted at McGill University Health Center, Montreal, Canada, over 20 percent of its MRSA patients were dead within one year.  MRSA, is now considered even more dangerous than previously believed and, once seen chiefly in hospitals, MRSA is now striking healthy people outside of hospitals and nursing homes and has emerged as a community-based—as opposed to hospital-derived—disease.

According to 2005 CDC figures, nearly 19,000 people died in the U.S. from MRSA infections; 94,000 were seriously sickened.  Of 19,000 patients studied in 2005, 2,000 were healthy people contracting community-based MRSA.  In Canada, about 220,000 people are sickened; an additional 8,000 to 12,000 die annually.

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