ANTIBIOTIC-RESISTANT INFECTION SPREADS.
After spreading through Los Angeles County jails and Skid Row, a stubborn and potentially deadly skin infection is increasingly showing up in the general population, a health report released Thursday warned.
At the Olive View-UCLA Medical Center emergency room in Sylmar, the percentage of skin infections due to the virulent strain of an antibiotic-resistant staph infection has risen from 29 percent in 2001 to 64 percent in 2004, according to the report.
Dr. Jonathan E. Fielding, the county's public health director, said other hospitals throughout the county are seeing similar increases. Outbreaks have been reported among members of a football team, a commercial gym, firefighters, police and even newborns.
``We are finding this broadly in the community,'' Fielding said. ``It is not simply a problem of Skid Row or the jails. But the conditions on Skid Row and in the jails increase the likelihood of one having it and transmitting it. Those are close, crowded living conditions with poor hygiene and frequent skin-to-skin contact.
``That's the way these staph infections are transmitted most of the time, oftentime with contact with skin that has abrasions and with shared items like shared razors, soap, towels and blankets.''
The infection -- known as methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus, or MRSA -- begins as a skin condition that evolves into sores resembling spider bites. If not treated, it progresses to painful boils and abscesses.
In rare cases, it can infect the lungs or blood and cause life-threatening pneumonia.
Fielding said several people in the county have died from the infection, which is spread by direct physical contact or by touching contaminated surfaces.
Antibiotics, including Cilindamycin and Bactrim, can be used to fight the infection. But Fielding said a key in prevention is good hygiene.