Representative Tom Campbell
Photo from Representative Campbell’s official website
From Rep. Tom Campbell’s Nov. 15th Press Release:
Rep. Tom Campbell today applauded Gov. Chris Gregoires initiative to increase tracking of the drug-resistant staph infections known as MRSA (methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus). Gregoire yesterday (Nov. 14) directed the state Department of Health (DOH) to convene a panel of scientific experts to recommend a plan to monitor MRSA and what to do about it.
Campbell requested, in a letter to the governor last week, she use her emergency powers to require DOH to list MRSA as a reportable medical condition. The issue is too important to wait until the legislature can take it up in January, Campbell wrote.
Today, Campbell said he applauds the governors first step, and I look forward to working with her and her office in the upcoming session to ensure safety of the people of Washington.
He said he didnt get all he had asked for with the governors first step, but I believe this is a substantial and meaningful step that will begin to engage our public health agency on the necessary job of tracking and containing this potentially lethal infection.
Campbell said he has drafted a bill to pre-file for the January 2008 session to make MRSA a reportable condition like is currently required in reporting a number of other health problems like the measles.
Currently, the state doesnt require doctors or other health-care professionals to document cases of MRSA as it does with other disease. So, theres no way for the public to have access to this information, Campbell said.
Campbell (R-Roy) said he was pleased by the Governors letter to DOH. Her actions were desperately needed and leadership at this time is very appreciated.
“MRSA is entering our consciousness, and for some it has also infected their skin. Methicillin-Resistant Staphylococcus Aureus, pronounced mer-sa, is the new wrinkle in public health.
Although called a superbug by some, the germ getting heightened attention is the simple staph infection that has been common since time immemorial. The new twist is that most staph is now drug-resistant to common antibiotics like penicillin and cephalosporin, all members of the methicillin family of pharmaceuticals.
70% of all skin infections nowadays are MRSA, says Ron Morehouse, certified physician assistant at Grahams Quick Care clinic. Ive treated eleven cases since October.
MRSA infections typically look like a severe spider bite, with a bulls eye center of bright red swelling surrounded by inflammation. Other forms can resemble a bad rash, lesions, or boils, the latter being blister-like inflammations underneath the surface of the skin.
Fortunately, MRSA is treatable with other antibiotics, says Joby Winans, MRSA specialist with the Tacoma-Pierce County Health Department. In fact, some cases do not need any medication at all. Winans said that many cases of MRSA can be treated merely by lancing and draining the infection, and a good follow-up scrubbing. She strongly recommends these procedures be performed by a professional health provider because MRSA is highly contagious through direct contact with affected areas or the liquid discharges. Once treated, MRSA infections must be covered with a clean bandage until the healing is complete.
Overall, most MRSA is not serious.
There are millions of cases of MRSA each year, nationwide, and the vast majority are successfully treated, Winans said.
However, MRSA can get deadly. This happens when MRSA penetrates beneath the skin layer and enters an organ, either through a wound or surgery.
This latter, hospital-acquired, MRSA is very difficult to treat, stated Winans, adding that the National Center for Disease Control announced recently there were nearly 100,000 cases of invasive MRSA nationwide last year, and 19,000 were fatal.
These deaths are the focus of a growing political and medical storm.
State Representative Tom Campbell, (R-Graham-2nd LD), has been trying to compel the Washington State Department of Health to closely monitor the deadly form of MRSA.
The state has had an insufficient response to this health crisis, and the public is concerned. The Governor should use her emergency powers to require the Department of Health to list MRSA as a reportable condition, and not wait until the legislature meets in January. We need to deal with this issue quickly. We need to know how many people have this condition, understand how they contract it, and correct the situation. More people die of MRSA than AIDS in this country. This is serious, Campbell said.
Fortunately, Gov. Chris Gregoire has responded to his call. Statewide monitoring of MRSA is expected shortly.
Locally, the T-PCHD is already doing just that. Seven years ago, it formed a task force composed of the countys major health providers, who share data and create solutions.
Good Sam is part of the task force, said Winans, along with Madigan, Multi-Care, and many nursing homes and clinics.
Winans also suggests simply ways to minimize exposure to MRSA: Use good hygiene. Dont share towels, and dont share sports equipment. Use gloves to deal with wounds. Wash your hands after doing laundry.
In addition, the MRSA task force has produced a booklet containing many helpful ideas, including how to deal with infected pets, who are just as susceptible to staph infections as humans. Titled, Living with MRSA, it is available through health providers or directly from the T-PCHD at (253) 798-6500 (Pierce County).”
Pierce County appears to be far ahead of even the State and Thurston County on this issue.