Waymon Hudson

Health Officials Apologize to Gay Community over MRSA Scare

Filed By Waymon Hudson | February 05, 2008 9:01 AM | comments

Filed in: Living
Tags: CDC, MRSA, UCSF

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.


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Michael Crawford Michael Crawford | February 5, 2008 9:58 AM

UCSF's apology is too little, too late. No matter what new information is put out or how many apologetic press releases they issue, they have already given the anti-gay right another weapon to use against us.

I agree, Michael. This is already a new favorite weapon of anti-gay groups like the "Concerned Women of America" and many others.

You can bet that national media won't cover this apology at all. It isn't nearly as interesting as gay fear-mongering.

One thing to think about, this is an object lesson in you can't un-blow a horn.
One of the emerging places where MRSA is becoming a problem is in health and fitness clubs. The UCSF statment apology or not is going to add fuel the mountain of perceived evidance supporting homophobia.

Not a good thing at all.

Take care
Sue

Yeah, the apology rings hollow to me too. Too little, too late. Where were they when the story was breaking with the whole, "Wait a minute! That's not what we were saying!"

Kinda feel sorry for the UCSF people. They're a university research group, I doubt they're familiar with how to deal with the media. Everything university goes slow, so I'm not really surprised that it took them a few weeks to revise. Actually, that's a lot faster than most academic programs revise their messages!

Actually, Alex, most schools have large media/PR departments that are constantly working to insure the university's interests and proper views are heard and reported. They make their money off of reputation and have media people in place to make sure that that reputation remains intact.

There would have been no response or “apology” if LGBT groups hadn’t pushed back on the unfair labeling of MRSA as a gay disease. This apology is just damage control.

Brynn Craffey Brynn Craffey | February 6, 2008 8:42 PM

I'm with Alex on this one: UCSF does not deserve all the blame.

What about holding reporters to task for not researching their subject matter?! AND being aware that they have the responsibility, especially when discussing gay health topics, to be extra careful not to convey false impressions or hand ammunition to the homobigots?!

I have a graduate degree in journalism, so I know firsthand of what I speak. And I can tell you, I would have NEVER written a story on MRSA that gave the false impression it was a "gay disease" like the many that were published.

Good point, Brynn. I agree with you. UCSF doesn't deserve all the blame, but I in no way feel bad for them or think they have no blame in this.

I agree that our media is completely screwy right now and always goes for the sensational, rather than report the realistic. It was bad reporting coupled with a bad statement from UCSF that caused the MRSA scare. When even "reputable" news sources like the New York Times and MSNBC run "MRSA is a gay disease" stories, you have to wonder about the message that was sent out by UCSF. You also have to wonder about the underlying level of gay-fear that is still in the general public and media.