Is media coverage of MRSA all hype?

Lawton_Reports on Staph infection - particularly the strain, MRSA - have been all over the news lately.  But, is MRSA really something you should be concerned about, or is it just being hyped up in the media?  An infection control expert in Lawton says the answer is both.  He says, believe it or not, Comanche County Memorial Hospital sees - on average - about 20 new cases of MRSA each week.

Our local expert, Danny Vardeman, says more new cases are emerging, but this is a bacterium that's been around since the 1940s.  Three years ago Southwestern Oklahoma had a MRSA outbreak.  It happened in Carnegie and lead to the cancellation of the school's homecoming game.

Back then, doctors said the same thing - it's nothing to be alarmed about, just more aware.  "It has been something that we in the hospital environment and other health care settings have had to deal with for many, many years," Vardeman says.  The problem, he says, is the number of medicine resistant Staph infections popping up outside hospital walls.  "If we had 100 isolates of Staphoreus, two percent were MRSA [in the 80s]," says Vardeman.  "Today it's about 70 percent and those are statistics we see at our facility."

So - why has MRSA become such a big news topic lately?  Vardeman says he believes it's because people who typically seem health are becoming very sick, even dying of infection or complications from this strain of Staph.  "That certainly heightens awareness of everybody to what is this," he says.  "'Where did it come from?'  'How come we haven't heard of it before?' so forth and so on."

So, even if it is being hyped, Vardeman says that it's raising awareness of how to prevent the bacteria from spreading.  He says it's never a bad idea to pay more attention to hygiene and sanitization - especially in schools and hospitals.  Another interesting fact, Vardeman says a lot of MRSA infections are mistaken for spider bites.

Most of the time the infection can be treated on an outpatient basis and the exact number of MRSA cases, at any given time, is difficult to determine.  They are not reportable diseases, although more and more schools are trying to keep track.  Lawton Public Schools says, so far, it hasn't been notified of any students diagnosed with MRSA.