SAN FRANCISCO--January 18, 2008--There has been widespread media coverage recently about a drug-resistant strain of MRSA bacteria, known as USA300, found in gay men in San Francisco and Boston. The findings were reported in the Annals of Internal Medicine.
Unfortunately, some of the media stories have made claims not fully supported by the research or have stigmatized gay men by distinguishing them from the general population. Further, some right wing groups and commentators have seized upon this story as an opportunity to spread misinformation about homosexuality.
Epidemiological research documenting the spread of this strain was posted in an online article on the Annals of Internal Medicine website. The strains of MRSA described in the article have mostly been identified in certain gay men in only two geographic regions and specific sexual behaviors were not assessed, so no conclusions can be drawn about the prevalence of these strains among all gay men or about the association of the infection with specific male-male sexual practices.
While the infection may be linked to intimate contact, the infection can also be spread by skin-to-skin contact and by sharing towels and other personal items. The CDC states that there is no evidence at this time to suggest that MRSA is a sexually-transmitted infection in the classical sense.
MRSA infection can be a serious matter, but if recognized early, the infection can be treated effectively. The CDC recommends the following to prevent the spread of MRSA:
1. Cover your wound. Keep wounds that are draining or have pus covered with clean, dry bandages. Follow your healthcare providers instructions on proper care of the wound. Pus from infected wounds can contain staph and MRSA, so keeping wounds covered will help prevent the spread to others. Bandages or tape can be discarded with the regular trash.
2. Clean your hands. You, your family, and others in close contact should wash their hands frequently with soap and warm water or use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer, especially after changing the bandage or touching the infected wounds.
3. Do not share personal items. Avoid sharing personal items such as towels, washcloths, razors, clothing, or uniforms that may have had contact with infected wounds or bandages. Wash sheets, towels, and clothes that become soiled with water and laundry detergent. Drying clothes in a hot dryer, rather than air-drying, also helps kill bacteria in clothes.
4. Talk to your doctor. Tell any healthcare providers who treat you that you have or had a staph or MRSA skin infection.