In a Feb. 28 e-mail alert sent to doctors who treat gay men in Washington and its suburbs, the Whitman-Walker Clinic warned that a drug-resistant staph infection (MRSA) could be transmitted, among other ways, by sharing straws, spoons or other devices used to inhale drugs through the nose.
MRSA is found in a non-infective state in the noses of large numbers of people. Although MRSA and other forms of staph usually remain dormant in the nose, they can spread to other parts of the body through poor hygiene, according to CDC.
MRSA began surfacing in gay men in Los Angeles and San Francisco late last year. Doctors have now confirmed cases among gays in Atlanta, Houston, Boston, New York City and Washington, D.C. The infections manifest themselves as boils and abscesses on the body, including the rectal and groin areas. Public health officials in several cities said the infections appeared to be spread by skin to skin contact, including sexual contact, and in public spaces like gyms and bathhouses.
Since 1997 the infection, once found mainly in hospitals and nursing homes, has surfaced in such groups as inmates, members of athletic teams, and Native Americans. CDC epidemiologists have said new cases outside San Francisco and Los Angeles appear to confirm earlier findings by CDC researchers that a new, undetermined factor is causing MRSA to flourish in a wider group that now includes gay men.
Solid information on infection patterns and the scope of the disease is not available, health care providers said, because MRSA is not reportable under current data gathering processes. CDC does have one surveillance program involving four states that voluntarily report MRSA findings, according to officials. Some private physicians have called for quick action by the public health system, and some state epidemiologists have joined the call for mandatory reporting.
Back to other CDC news for March 11, 2003