What's Going Around: MERS concerns, bacterial infections

What's Going Around: MERS concerns, bacterial infections

Concerns are growing as the MERS virus has spread from Saudi Arabia, through the Middle East and on to 18 countries, including the United States.  In this week's What's Going Around, CHRISTUS St. Patrick Hospital infectious disease physician, Dr. Timothy Haman, talks about local questions related to MERS, as well as a bacteria causing skin and soft tissue infections.

The MERS virus, or Middle Eastern Respiratory Syndrome, started in Saudi Arabia back in 2012. The virus is tricky, as symptoms range from none - to a severe cold and respiratory problems.  

Two men in the U.S. became ill after traveling to Saudi Arabia and went through isolated treatment - the same protocol that would be used locally if a person became infected.  "We would isolate the patient and there is testing through the CDC," said Dr. Haman, "to test for the virus, both in the respiratory system, as well as a blood test.  Treatment is just really supportive care."

Dr. Haman says the hospital has received calls from the community about flu-like symptoms and whether or not it could be MERS.  But he says you are not at risk unless you have traveled to the Middle East or come in contact with an infected person.  "With the petrochemical industry, we do have a lot of people that travel back and forth, so if you have traveled to the Middle East lately and developed these types of flu-like symptoms, be sure to let your doctor know," said Dr. Haman.

A MERS vaccine is in the works, but that is a very lengthy process.

Something that is being seen locally is a bacteria called Mycobacterium marinum, found in salt and fresh water.  It causes skin and soft tissue infections.  "Here in Southwest Louisiana, we've seen many cases over the past two years of people, fishermen, shrimpers, getting stuck on a shrimp or on a fish spine and developing a severe infection in their hands or their finger," said Dr. Haman.

Treatment is cleaning the wound surgically and three to four months taking antibiotics.

Dr. Haman says the only prevention is minimizing the chance of being cut and using antibacterial soap as quickly as possible.

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