Special Report: Skin Deep

By: Lori Dougovito
By: Lori Dougovito

MRSA is a superbug resulting from decades of unnecessary antibiotic use.

Cheryl Fritze at first thought it was a bug bite and the swelling on her left cheek would go away. She'd gone in for a facial,a buffing procedure called microderm abrasion. "It kinda just sloughs off the outer layer, the dead skin, " explains Fritze.

Later that evening, she noticed a spot and shrugged it off. Days later it still wasn't gone. She went to the emergency room and found out it was a form of a staph infection called MRSA or Methicillin Resistant Staph Aureus.

It's basically a germ able to outwit to typical,modern antibiotics. "We now have to used the old antibiotics,the simple ones," says Dr. Michael Clark,the senior attending emergency physician at sparrow. He treated Cheryl.

"You've heard of the flesh eating bacteria, this is one of them," says Clark. He sees on average three to five MRSA infections every day.
The bug is common and contagious. It can be picked up anywhere.
A landmark study done in India shows 30% of health care workers carry it in their nose.

"And apparently MRSA grabs hold when it has a pathway in,a cut,scrape,abrasion," says Fritze. That's how she figures she got it,from the facial, though it's unclear where the MRSA actually came from.

Severe infections like hers must be treated with oral and i-v antibiotics.
She even had to have surgery to get the staph bacteria out of her cheek.

"If you are immune compromised meaning you have diabetes or on cancer drugs and you get this trying to get rid of it is a nightmare," says Clark. It can be fatal if not treated.

"If it hadn't been on my face, if it had been on my arm or leg, I probably would have let it go a little longer and could have been in some real serious trouble," says Fritze.

Prevention is the key to avoiding MRSA. Doctors recommend first and foremost, washing your hands. Using anti-bacterial hand sanitizer often is a good idea too. Keep personal items personal and keep wounds covered. If you think you may have MRSA, ask to be tested for it to speed up the treatment process.


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