DRUG-RESISTANT STAPH HITTING PRISONS
---- Original Message -----
Sent: Monday, February 10, 2003 10:00 PM
Drug-Resistant Staph Hitting Prisons
Drug-resistant bacteria that cause painful and potentially dangerous skin infections are gaining a foothold in the nation's prisons, health officials say.
Jails in at least six states have reported outbreaks of drug-resistant Staphylococcus aureus, a strain of the common staph infection that can give its victims pimples, oozing boils, blood infections or pneumonia.
Dr. Matthew Kuehnert, an epidemiologist at the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said the disease could be in many more jails but it is uncertain how widespread infections have become.
Most prisons don't track illnesses well and many infections may be going unnoticed, he said.
Until recently, staph infections resistant to antibiotics have been seen almost exclusively in hospitals and nursing homes, where patients weakened by other illnesses are more susceptible. Doctors must use more powerful drugs and in some cases cut away tissue to treat the infections.
The staph disease turned up in a Mississippi jail in late 1999, infecting about 60 inmates in 12 months. About 200 cases were reported by jails last year in Texas, 94 in Georgia and seven in Tennessee. In the largest outbreak, more than 1,000 inmates were diagnosed with drug-resistant staph last year in Los Angeles.
An outbreak in 2001 of at least 21 cases at the Bucks County Prison in Doylestown, north of Philadelphia, prompted inmates there to sue, claiming they had been kept in unsanitary conditions.
The suit, filed in September, said officials did little to halt the spread of the disease, even after a female inmate diagnosed with drug-resistant staph died.
County spokesman Ron Watson said there is no proof the death was related to the illness. And he said the number of infections at the prison has dropped to just one since summer, when officials made changes similar to those made by other prisons with outbreaks.
They gave all inmates antibacterial soap, eliminated washcloths - which had been damp magnets for germs - and began laundering the clothes and towels of infected prisoners separately, Watson said.
Such measures may seem standard, but experts said they can be difficult to employ in jails, which have long been incubators for infectious disease.
The American Civil Liberties Union says prisons and health officials must be more vigilant in preventing outbreaks. It has criticized treatment of the Los Angeles prisoners, who were initially told by officers that poisonous spiders were causing the infections.
Prisons are not the only places people are contracting drug-resistant staph, which has been occurring in hospitals since about 1980.
About 50 cases were reported last year among high school athletes in a Houston suburb, and an outbreak was reported in San Francisco's gay
Note: For a prophetic article that warned us of this please see:
TOO LATE TO DEBATE by Patrick Swiney