Doctors in Augusta and throughout the nation are seeing an alarming rise in occurrences of a dangerous bacterial infections.
Methicillin resistant staphylococcus aureus is resistant to a class of antibiotics called beta-lactams, commonly used to treat staph infections, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Common staph and MRSA are germs that live on the skin or in the noses of healthy people and are spread by contact, according to the CDC.
Infections begin inside breaks in the skin or skin abscesses, said Dr. Jeff Orledge, an assistant professor of emergency medicine at the Medical College of Georgia.
Orledge said patients with MRSA are so common at MCG that the number of cases isn't specifically recorded.
"What we found from the community (is) when the patient comes with little infections or little abscesses, about 30 percent of that is MRSA," said Dr. Zaheed Hassan, a co-medical director of the Burn Center at Doctors Hospital.
Some of these infections are associated with a rise of necrotic infections after spider bites and scorpion stings, he said. The poison of some spider bites and scorpion stings causes tissue necrosis, meaning the poison eats away at the surrounding tissue, Hassan explained.
"This year has been worse, more than last season," Hassan said of bite and sting cases at the hospital.
Two firefighters from Martinez-Columbia Fire Rescue can speak to the danger of MRSA infection from a suspected scorpion sting and a spider bite.
On the morning of Sept. 12, Jamie Champion woke up and his left arm was sore, warmer than usual and red at the elbow, he said. There was a small, swollen area and a bite mark in the middle of the redness, he said.
Champion went to his primary care physician and later went to Doctors Hospital, where physicians prescribed antibiotics, he said.
The next day, Champion returned for scheduled treatment and was admitted to the wound center for four days, enduring three surgeries and four treatments in the hospital's hyperbaric chamber, he said.
Tissue necrosis inhibits oxygenated blood from reaching the affected area and healing the wound, Hassan said.
"To help prevent tissue necrosis you need oxygen ... To supply more oxygen you have to give the higher atmospheric pressure of oxygen that you can get through the hyperbaric chamber," Hassan said.
Doctors told Champion they suspected the infection followed a scorpion sting.
"I'm glad this happened to me," Champion said. "I have a 3-year-old daughter, and I'm glad it didn't happen to her. That would be miserable to someone that age."
Champion said he was prompted to seek medical treatment by the experience of fellow firefighter Andy Cloud, who in March was bitten on the left forearm by a spider as he moved logs in his yard.
Cloud said he thought an ant had bitten him, but after four days of severe pain and increased swelling, he sought treatment at Doctors Hospital and was told by doctors the chicken's egg-size wound was caused by a brown recluse spider.
"I wouldn't wish this on my worst enemy," Cloud said of the pain and uncertainty of the prognosis.
Both men said doctors were afraid the infection could result in amputation of their affected limbs.
"It was pretty scary," Cloud said. "You might not be able to hug your kids the same way because of a little quarter-inch spider."
Cloud spent nine days in the wound center at Doctors Hospital as physicians first lanced the infection and then performed surgery, cutting away at the rotting tissue to stop its spread.
The firefighters praised the support of their colleagues and their physicians Hassan, Dr. Robert Mullins and Dr. Claus Brandigi.
"(My doctors) should have wings on their backs because they were angels," Cloud said.
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