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Drug resistant infections on rise in community

Data from L.V. Stabler hospital shows that a strain of methicillin-resistant staph infections may be on the rise in the community.

The Center for Disease Control and Prevention describe methicillin-resistant staphylococcus aureus, or MRSA, as a strain of staph infections that have developed a resistance to some antibiotics.

Dr. Ramana Puppala, who works at Women’s Health Consultants of Alabama, emphasized that these infections are breeding in the community, not the hospital.

“There were zero hospital-acquired cases of MRSA at L.V. Stabler in 2009 and zero so far this year to date,” Puppala said.

All of the cases reported, Puppala said, were already present in patients upon arriving for treatment. 113 patients who checked into L.V. Stabler in 2009 tested positive for MRSA. Puppala explained that all incoming patients have their noses swabbed, so that they can minimize the chance of it spreading to other individuals.

An even larger number of people visited a primary care physician or other doctor, only to find out they had a MRSA infection. Puppala said 148 cases were reported from these sources, 40 of which occurred during the last quarter.

“That is 27 percent of all total cases,” Puppala said. “We want to prevent these people from spreading it to their children.”

Puppala said that in 2007, an outbreak of community-acquired MRSA spread among athletes and in training gyms.

“This isn’t as bad as the MRSA outbreak in 2007, but MRSA is still on the rise,” Puppala said.

Since the Alabama Department of Public Health does not keep statistics, Puppala said it is hard to compare Butler County with other areas in the state. Everything he has seen at the hospital, however, indicates community-acquired MRSA is on the rise.

The first step in preventing the spread, Puppala said, is good hygiene.

“The little things, frequent hand washing and using sanitizer like Purell, help,” Puppala said. “Some retail stores offer sanitizing stations, but it would be a good idea to bring your own just in case.”

Person to person contact, whether it is indirect, like touching a shopping cart, or direct, like shaking hands, can transmit the infection, Puppala said.

“Any skin infection or boil that is warm, red and tender to the touch and not getting better should be check,” Puppala said.

While MRSA is resistant to some antibiotics, Puppala said it is still treatable.

“The typical drug prescribed for this was penicillin, but the cell walls of these bacteria have developed a resistance,” Puppala said. “The good thing is, antibiotics like Bactrim and Rifampin, can still knock these infections out.”

When you start being treated with antibiotics, Puppala added, don’t stop taking them when you feel better.

“You need to finish the course, be it four days or two weeks, because that is the best way for us to prevent new resistant strains from spreading,” Puppala said.