In recent weeks Methicillin Resistant Staphylococcus Aureus (MRSA) has been a huge story in the national media. The most recent focus seemed to be completely on the impact of MRSA on gay men, regardless of the fact that it is generally transmitted from skin to skin contact and can also be spread by touching contaminated surfaces. Many news agencies decided that MRSA was the new “gay disease” and reported it that way.
Now the University of California San Francisco, who first reported the problem, has issued a public apology to the gay community for singling them out as major contributor.
Early last week, the UCSF Dept of Public Affairs issued an apology stating:
We regret that our recent news report (1-14-08) about an important population-based study on MRSA USA300 with public health implications contained some information that could be interpreted as misleading. We deplore negative targeting of specific populations in association with MRSA infections or other public health concerns, and we will be working to ensure that accurate information about the research is disseminated to the health community and the general public.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) also released a statement that said it was not a sexually transmitted disease and could be contracted through skin-to-skin contact. They reiterated that MRSA is widespread in hospitals and among hospital workers. “These infections occur in men, women, adults, children and persons of all races and sexual orientations.”
While it is true that MRSA has been identified among gay men, it has also been found among every other segment of the population, including in areas where people share close quarters, such as military barracks, prisons, and hospitals. Athletes are also highly at risk.
While I applaud the health officials for clarifying their statements, the damage has already been done. The misinformation is out there. You can be assured that this apology won’t get the same national coverage that the “MRSA=Gay Disease” story got.
This is a disease that affects everyone who has skin-to-skin contact with another person, not a gay super-bug. With shades of the gay panic of the 80’s with HIV/AIDS, MRSA now joins the ranks of another disease in which the gay community is the unfortunate scapegoat.