Local News

Bacterial Infection A Growing Problem Across N.C.

Posted April 16, 2006 10:21 a.m. EDT

— A gym is a place for fitness, not infection.

But RaeLynn Carr said that is what she got after a workout using a large rubber exercise ball on her legs.

Two days after using the ball, she noticed she had a welt on her leg. She used an antibiotic cream, but said the condition worsened.

"They thought, at first, that it was a brown recluse spider," Carr said.

That is a common misdiagnosis of methycillin resistant staphylococcus aureus, or MRSA, which is unresponsive to many antibiotics.

MRSA is transmitted through direct contact with an infected person. The bacteria can live on a surface, such as shared gym equipment or towels, and can infect the body through an open wound as small as a razor nick.

That is how Carr thinks she got it.

After almost four weeks of failed treatments, the infection was deep and spreading. Carr ended up in the emergency department at WakeMed in Cary.

"(The doctor) told me that it would not heal without cutting out that section of my leg," she said.

MRSA is most common in health care settings among people with weakened immunity. Since it is not one of the state's 57 reportable diseases, no one really knows how often otherwise healthy people get it. But many health care professionals believe it is a growing problem.

"Just talking to my colleagues across the state, it seems to be something that people are noticing an increase in cases," said registered nurse Robin Carver, an infection control practitioner at WakeMed.

Carr is still on a strong antibiotic called Bactrim, and it could take up to a year for the leg to heal. Even then, her leg will never look the same.

"It's sore and it's painful some days as it's healing. When I walk, it opens up sometimes," she said.

The best way to help prevent MRSA is to avoid sharing personal items, such as towels or razors; regularly disinfect shared surfaces, such as gym equipment; keep bandages on cuts and scrapes; and always practice good hand hygiene by washing hands often.