Infection traced to a spa
An outbreak of drug-resistant bacteria that causes painful skin infections has been traced to a single worker at a particular Pembroke spa.
Government last night declined to name the facility, citing privacy reasons, but said the business had been cleaned and the infected staff member quarantined.
The spa has been directly linked to at least 20 cases of the MRSA (Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus) infection, limited to August and September of this year.
It was yesterday open for business, but the owner could not be reached for comment.
According to Health Permanent Secretary Kevin Monkman, authorities learned of the issue in late September.
“All the people who have tested positive have all been with one person,” Mr Monkman said.
“No one else was identified. Everyone who works at the place was tested, and only one tested positive for MRSA. That person was taken off work and has been put on a regimen to eliminate the MRSA. They can't go back until they have tested negative on two consecutive occasions.”
According to the Health Department, cases of MRSA were up to 133 for this year, against 117 reported last year.
Since the source of the infection was identified early this month, 34 cases overall were reported.
Once the spa was found, Mr Monkman said, “they went through a process of deep cleaning entailing Health Department and Epidemiology staff, who reviewed all their practises”.
“Once the deep cleaning was done and the further testing done, the place reopened, with the person who tested positive not at work. They wouldn't be open otherwise.”
MRSA, known for its ability to flourish in the presence of traditional germ-killing antibiotics, is spread by direct skin contact with an infected person or with a contaminated surface.
The bacterium can thrive in crowded environments, but seldom afflicts healthy individuals.
However, anyone experiencing symptoms including “unexplained itchy or painful skin lesions which spread rapidly or may appear to be a spider bite” should seek prompt medical treatment.
In serious cases, blisters develop into abscesses.
Mr Monkman said Health staff had tracked down clients of the spa who might have come in contact with the infection.
“I doubt we've called 100 percent of them. Some don't have phone or e-mail. But we're actively pursuing people who we feel might have been exposed.”
MRSA is “resistant to some antibiotics, but not all”, he said. The infected carrier has been treated with bacterial wash and a broad spectrum of antibiotics.
The Permanent Secretary advised people who don't have symptoms not to “rush off and be tested”.
“We want to avoid a population-wide testing and treatment with people who are asymptomatic because we don't want to run the risk of developing a new resistant strain,” he said.
“It's important just for people who have the symptoms are may have been in the catchment area to be tested.”
Worldwide, MRSA has proven a nuisance in hospitals, where patients with weakened immune systems are vulnerable to infection.
Anyone suspecting they might be infected should consult their doctor as soon as possible, since early diagnosis is crucial for quick treatment.
Government advises anyone with an MRSA infection to keep the wound covered and clean until healed, and avoid using public facilities or sharing any personal items.
Any discharge can transmit the germ, and bandages should be safely disposed of in the trash.
A Ministry of Health spokeswoman added: “We ask that members of the public with any questions on MRSA refer to the website: www.health.gov.bm (under the FAQ section) rather than calling the Department of Health as full resources are currently going into contact tracing at this point.”