A fatal type of skin infection has been popping up across the U.S. with much more frequency and is now coming closer to Temple.
The disease known as methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus has, in some advanced cases, stopped responding to prescribed medications, earning the title “superbug.”
Staph infections are nothing new on the medical front, but MRSA specifically has managed to evolve and gain immunity against the typically prescribed antibiotics. Starting with the recent death of a Virginia high school student in October,
the infection became a concern to students, teachers and parents everywhere.
MRSA had previously been localized to hospitals and other healthcare facilities but has recently extended itself to areas with similar surroundings, primarily schools. The infection was common among people with open wounds or a weakened immune system. Andrea Landis, a sophomore communications major, has a brother who contracted a variation of the disease in his cornea. The vision in his right eye still has not returned after treatment.
There is no clear path to follow in attempts to prevent MRSA. Most staph infections are common and can be easily treated. MRSA is a specific case with confounding traits.
General cleanliness is the best prevention. MRSA can be contracted through shared towels, razors or bars of soap. Any wounds should be cleaned and bandaged to reduce the chances of becoming infected with MRSA or any other type of skin infection.
Temple is among four other institutions across the country participating in a five-year study titled STOP MRSA, funded by the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases. Temple will receive $9 million for participation in the study. The goal is to analyze the current treatments used on skin infections and gain approval from the Food and Drug Administration for an antibiotic to cure these new cases. Temple will also receive $1.8 million in funds from the Olive View-UCLA Education and Research Institute, who are the lead investigators in the STOP MRSA group. Symptoms of the infection include boils on the skin resembling insect bites which may be painful but can also progress to pneumonia or bloodstream infections. A person who thinks that he or she has developed the infection should first consult a personal doctor for a diagnosis.
The Philadelphia Department of Public Health has specific standards that Temple follows” assured Joshua S. Rosenzweig, a physician at Temple’s Employee Health Services. One possible cause of contracting any staph disease is crowed living conditions. Rosenzweig said dorms on campus fall into that category, so tenants should be practicing good hygiene.
South Jersey has recently been stricken with four cases of MRSA. Washington Township High School, Wenonah Public School, Gloucester County College and Oakview School in West Deptford all have had students contract the drug-resistant infection.
“There has been an increase in the cases of MRSA. Everyone should be aware, but the media tends to cover cases like this” said Rosenzweig.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention does not recommend temporarily shutting down institutions like Temple to perform a thorough cleaning. Joe Fogerty, a freshman journalism major, has a similar point of view.
“Closing down the school would be a little much, but sanitizing everything over break wouldn’t be a bad idea,” he said.
Studies are now underway to find a cure for MRSA but cases are continuing to occur and some are still unable to be treated. Instances where the infection led to death are low
but rising. Figures from the October 17, 2007 issue of Journal of the American Medical Association show that in 2005 MRSA was attributed to 19,000 deaths out of 94,000 reported cases. “There is a reason for concern but the circumstances of each
reported case are important” said Rosenzweig.
Greg Adomaitis can be reached at email@example.com.