A lot of people are sending us the Lawrence K. Altman article in the NY Times about a new MRSA-related bacterial infection. The S.F. Chronicle is doing its usual sensationalized coverage, as well.
This is why White Crane has a regular columnist, Nurse Daisy (aka Jeff Huyett) who writes the Owner’s Manual health column (it’s also why White Crane sponsors the Gay Men’s Health Leadership Academy.)
I’ve asked Daisy about this. Here’s the general sense of it from Daisy’s professional perspective:
I deal with one to two MRSA abscesses a week in my work as a nurse. Some ain’t so bad, some are so large a patient risks losing a limb or an ear.
The media almost always sensationalizes Gay health issues. Who’s suprised! But, there is an important kernel of worry that should be attended to. These infections can be really nasty and tend to grow really fast. Thus, "waiting to see how it looks tomorrow" can be the difference between a few minutes of inconvenience and losing a chunk of your nose to this serious bacteria. Gay press often isn’t much better in helping us sort health concerns presented in the press.
Too often, queers have shame and guilt connected to their health issues and may delay having something assessed. These articles further stigmatize our sex and our people. But you should be alarmed at this health issue. Treatment for MRSA should not be delayed. If you have a big pus ball larger than a grape, it
almost assuredly needs to be drained to slow the infection spread.
Here are my suggestions:
1. Take good care of your skin inside and out. Drink plenty of water, moisturize your skin, consider humidity in your apartment if it’s dry.
2. If you’ve been a greasy pig over the weekend and had lots of sex with lots of people, wash with soap and water, moisturize, monitor. Nurses aren’t too keen on frequent anti-bacterial soaps.
3. MRSA’S start like a painful, small pimple and within 48 hours can grow into a huge pus ball. If you think you have a MRSA starting, use hot compresses to soak the area to improve circulation. Apply mupirocin (Bactroban) twice a day. I’ve seen some help with Tea Tree Oil
4. Seek help if one of these blossoms and becomes large. There are antibiotics that typically work but one needs to be aware to cover for MRSA and not garden-variety skin infections.
5. If you get an abscess, make sure your provider tests for MRSA if possible.
Take care of each other by mentioning health issues that someone may be letting slide. Sometimes our emotional health prevents us from activating or our drug use dulls our response time. MRSA is one thing that requires some quick thinking.
[The image is Asclepius with his rod, which not a "caduceus," but an ancient Greek symbol associated with astrology and with healing the sick through medicine. "Asclepius’ rod" consists of a single serpent entwined around a staff. Asclepius, the son of Apollo, was practitioner of medicine in ancient Greek medicine.]