Sunday, November 4, 2007

MRSA cases higher, but they're still rare

MRSA cases higher, but they're still rare

Posted by the Asbury Park Press on 11/4/07

After days of media hype, the public now knows a lot about Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA), and many of us have come to fear this big bad "superbug."

As an emergency physician, who has successfully treated many types of infections, I feel the need to clarify two common public misconceptions:

There has not been a sudden jump in MRSA cases. Rather, reports of MRSA have been steadily increasing for years.

MRSA is still relatively rare. Only 1 percent of the population carries MRSA, and most of these people do not develop infections — especially if they simply wash their hands. Moreover, most MRSA infections are easily treated, if caught early enough.

What is most alarming about MRSA is its link to the continued inappropriate use of antibiotics. That's why the American College of Emergency Physicians is saying it's important for people to know when — and when not — to seek antibiotics for a range of illnesses. For example, people need to realize they should not be seeking antibiotics for colds or the flu because these illnesses are caused by viruses, which do not respond to antibiotic treatment.

We need to focus less on useless fear-mongering and instead educate the public about why unnecessary use of antibiotics is contributing to a widespread public health problem.

Dr. Laurence DesRochers


Ashbury Park Press