Flushing, New York - A team of infectious disease specialists from New York Hospital Queens discussed the risks and fears caused by recent cases of community-acquired MRSA (Methicillin-Resistant Staphylococcus aureus) infection in the New York area at a press briefing at the hospital today.
"There is no need for the community to panic about Staph infections. Staphylococcus aureus is a type of bacteria that is found everywhere in our environment. It is nothing new," said James Rahal, MD, Director of the Infectious Disease Division at New York Hospital Queens. "MRSA, or Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus, means this strain of Staph has become resistant to commonly used antibiotics, but other effective drugs are available."
MRSA infections occur most frequently among persons staying in hospitals and healthcare facilities, where antibiotic use is more prevalent. When Staph aureus are allowed to multiply on the skin, they are more likely to cause infection.
"The two best things that you can do are to be informed about MRSA and practice good hygiene to help prevent multiplication and spread of the bacteria," added Dr. Rahal. [Free public education forum to be held on November 8- see note below].
Good personal hygiene, such as daily showers and frequent hand-washing with soap and water, is the recommended method of controlling this infection in the community. Antibacterial soaps and detergents are not necessary. It was suggested by the infectious disease specialist panel that the constant use of antibacterial soaps may eventually make the bacteria resistant, thus making it harder for physicians to fight the infection. Such soaps may also suppress normal bacteria, which are considered helpful.
MRSA infections that are acquired by healthy persons in the community who have not been recently hospitalized or visited a medical facility (within the past year) are known as Community Acquired-MRSA infections (CA-MRSA). These CA-MRSA infections are usually manifested as skin infections, such as pimples, boils, or abscesses; and rarely, pneumonia. If such skin infections become painful or tender, it is recommended that the individual should seek medical attention.
NYHQ conducts ongoing surveillance for infectious diseases, as well as targeted research. An original article based upon a multi-year investigation into the impact on MRSA is being published in the November issue of the journal Infection Control and Hospital Epidemiology.
Dr. Rahal"s distinguished career spans more than four decades. He achieved his undergraduate degree from Harvard-cum laude; and earned his MD from Tufts University-cum laude. He now teaches and works with infectious disease specialists at New York Hospital Queens as a professor of medicine for Weill Medical College of Cornell University. In the 1980s and 1990s, he was recognized internationally as the scientific leader who discovered and published his findings on the resistance of bacteria to antibiotics. Also during that time, when HIV/AIDS emerged as a growing public health issue, Dr. Rahal became actively involved in professional committees addressing innovative drug therapies, patient access to treatment and public policy decisions. In 1999, he was one of the first physicians in the U.S. to recognize the outbreak pattern of the West Nile virus when it first began infecting patients in Queens.
New York Hospital Queens is a member of the NewYork-Presbyterian Healthcare System and affiliated with Weill Medical College of Cornell University.
James Rahal, MD, Director of Infectious Disease Division at New York Hospital Queens, discourages public panic regarding MRSA staph infections
Infectious Disease expert panel at New York Hospital Queens (L to R) Sorana Segal-Maurer, MD; Wehbeh Wehbeh, MD; David S. Rubin, MD; Carl Urban, PhD; and Ed Mangini, RN, MPh.