ST JOHN’S, Antigua – A local infectious disease specialist is dispelling fears about the MRSA strain of bacteria, in light of ongoing fears from Culture Department workers that they are being exposed to the contagious staphylococcus bacteria by an infected co-worker.
“Apart from high-risk situations,” Dr Amina Fernandez said, “there is no reason for people not to work because otherwise you are fine. If there is an open wound and a doctor thinks antibiotics are needed, the doctor will prescribe antibiotics, otherwise sick leave would not be warranted,” she said in an interview with OBSERVER Media.
She added that the staph bacterium is very common and most of the population has it on their skin.
“The fact is many people are walking around colonised with these bacteria including MRSA and we don’t know.”
Fernandez advised those in the work place to sanitise their hands regularly, as employees often come into close proximity with co-workers and their belongings throughout the day.
“At work we should sanitise our hands regularly. When you are using common things you go to the bathroom and you wash your hands … simple precautions like that,” she urged.
Employees at the Ministry of Culture were most concerned by the open sores that their co-worker allegedly exhibited. However, the doctor said that simple precautions by the infected person should stave off infecting others.
“If somebody has wounds or boils … they should be covered. Especially if there is a draining wound, then it should be covered with some sort of dressing that is going to contain whatever is draining. MRSA or any other infection or open wound should always be covered, especially when going out into public. It is just simple infectious control precautions.”
The doctor said being colonised by the bacteria is “not dangerous.” She urged people with chronic diseases that might weaken the immune system to speak with their physician to assess their individual risk of infection.
For those without compromised immune systems, she noted, “Generally speaking with regular hand hygiene, which we should all be participating in, it should not be a problem.”
Workers at the Culture Department returned to work yesterday after walking off the job Monday due to fear of MRSA infection from a co-worker.
The worker who allegedly contracted the bacteria did not return to work Tuesday. It is not known if she or he has been put on extended sick leave.
As a precaution, classes for school-aged children were reportedly suspended until further notice.