Wednesday, April 2, 2008

Staph! Staph! Staph!

Relax...It's treatable. Yes, even the "Drug-Resistant" strains too.

In a wonderfully concise and wonderfully responsible manner Out Magazine reports on how one botched press release can lead to a domino effect resulting in a nation-wide panic and hate from the right.

Actually, even MRSA's formal name, methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus, is misleading, since methicillin is not the only penicillin synthetic to which this fast-moving bug has developed a resistance. Contrary to news reports, however, which hinted at an unstoppable scourge plaguing gay men, MRSA is treatable, through a variety of options in various combinations. Even multidrug-resistant MRSA, which can't be cured by some antibiotics outside the penicillin-synthetic drug family, is treatable.

These are only some of the gross inaccuracies surrounding this ailment since a team of researchers released a report in January. At first glance, a peer-reviewed analysis of data from hospitals and clinics in San Francisco and Boston, which was published under the aegis of the University of California, San Francisco, appeared to reveal that multidrug-resistant MRSA was becoming particularly prevalent among gay men. A report on National Public Radio and an article in The New York Times by Lawrence Altman, the highly respected medical journalist, set off a right-wing tidal wave of finger-pointing.

Rather than informing the public, the mainstream media inflamed the situation. A British tabloid said there was a “new HIV,” while the respected international news agency Reuters headlined an article “Drug-resistant Staph Passed in Gay Sex.”

The only problem with such reporting was that it simply wasn't true. The authors of the study quickly backpedaled, partly shifting the blame to a young epidemiologist who was the report's lead author for his misstatements. Meanwhile, other scientists and doctors came forward to assert that MRSA is not a new disease or even a “gay disease” -- and sexual contact is only one of many ways of contracting it.

“We've been hearing about MRSA for decades in all people -- men, women, young, old, gay, straight,” explained Melissa Marx, an epidemiologist in New York City's health department who spoke at a city public forum in late February, one of several held at LGBT centers around the country to counter the hysterical claims.

Go on and read the rest of the article. It's very straight forward and as gay people we should hip ourselves to articles such as these to prevent future panics and to understand the latest in our health.

I never hit the panic button during this year's staph reporting. In fact I've always been pretty casual about it. For instance, at the gym, when someone wants to work in with me I always say with a smile, "Of course! My staph infection is your staph infection." (rimshot!) yes? no? Whatever I'm off to Magic Mountain.


Anonymous said...

The whole gay MRSA thing has been blown out of proportion...but it is a damn nasty bug and I'm seeing more cases in kids (two-week-old babies even!!! Babies!! What can you do?) and the pus pockets just seem to keep coming. Although the Out article points out that MRSA is "treatable", there are really only 3-4 drugs left: 2 of them (Bactrim and clindamycin) can only be given intravenously and one of them (Linezolid) costs $1000 plus.

Humans have to have something to obsess about. Bird flu and SARS appear to be on the down low right now.

Love your blog. And the scruff is such a nice added feature.

Greg said...

Rather than informing the public, the mainstream media inflamed the situation.

That's what media has always done, and it's even more prevalent now with the internet and this need to get news out faster and faster. No one checks facts/researches any more. (Why should they if no one even bothers to proofread their articles?)

Marla said...

You will notice that Fresno, CA is the only city within the entire nation to react to the mrsa panic by increasing medical benefits for various departments, now working on ways to increase benefits for ALL city employees. They have a secret - spreading of deadly bacteria including pathogens from mrsa, behind felony altering of the city sewer and water systems, verified by witnesses and their own records. KNOWINGLY leaving a trail of illness, asthma, infections, amputation, death - refusing to even test the soil, as the risk analyst says, "Not my job." But lying about the cause of DELIBERATE and INTENTIONAL exposure to infectious, disease-carrying raw sewage is?!? Followed by altered records to cover up the evidence?
If anyone has contracted mrsa in Fresno, CA, there is enough evidence of fraud, blatant negligence and cover-up, which will surely result in massive lawsuits.