Doctors in Atlanta confirm having treated multiple cases of drug-resistant staph infections among gay men, bringing the outbreak that was originally reported in Los Angeles to at least five U.S. cities, including San Francisco, Washington, and Boston. Southern Voice reports that four Atlanta physicians have confirmed treating drug-resistant staph infections over the last few months, and the doctors estimate that as many as 50 cases have been treated throughout the region since the summer of 2002. As has been seen in the other cities, most of the staph infections in Atlanta have occurred among HIV-positive men. One man treated by AID Atlanta, an HIV/AIDS service organization, had to be hospitalized to receive intravenous antibiotics to treat his aggressive staph infection, agency officials said. Officials at Atlanta's Infection Disease Group and the Hudson Medical Group also confirm having treated cases of drug-resistant staph infections.
The large, painful skin infections are caused by a drug-resistant strain of Staphylococcus aureus, most commonly known as staph, that is likely spread through skin-to-skin contact. Because many of the men being treated for the condition have had the sores on their buttocks, scrota, penises, and upper thighs, health officials believe the drug-resistant staph infections are being passed through sexual activity. Doctors treating the infection warn that it could be contracted at bathhouses, sex clubs, health clubs, steam rooms, and other warm, moist environments. Gay men with multiple sex partners also have been deemed at high risk for the infection.
Treatment typically involves antibiotics. However, the standard drugs used to treat staph infections are inadequate against the strain of bacteria causing the outbreak, and stronger, newer drugs must be used in their place. In some cases, patients have had to be hospitalized to receive intravenous antibiotics. There have been no reported deaths linked to the drug-resistant infections, but staph can be fatal if left untreated.
A fact sheet available from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends regular hand washing with soap and water, keeping cuts and abrasions covered until healed, using a moisturizer on dry skin to prevent cracking, and avoiding contact with other people's wounds or material that touched their wounds as the best steps to avoid staph infections.
In Los Angeles, more than 50 gay or bisexual men have been confirmed to be infected with the drug-resistant bacteria, and health officials in San Francisco estimate that there are as many as 300 gay and bisexual men in the city who are currently infected. Health officials in Los Angeles County have begun an investigation into the staph outbreak there. They expect to have preliminary data by the end of April.