Three officers from the Los Angeles Police Department have contracted a potential antibiotic-resistant staph infection after an encounter with a homeless person last week.
The incident occurred when the officers brought in a transient to the LAPD West Valley station located in the Reseda neighborhood. All surfaces in the building have now been cleaned to prevent the further spread of the disease.
The infected officers have been placed on medical leave while waiting for testing and treatment. All of them are expected to make a full recovery.
In a statement, the LAPD said the health, safety, and well-being of its officers is critical, and that it makes sure that the affected police officers are cared for.
The Department also recognized the risk for disease exposure that first responders have to face as part of their duty, which is why it is taking the recent outbreak very seriously.
The police officers' infection was first reported to be caused by the methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) bacteria. However, officials said they cannot confirm whether it is a staph infection or another illness since test results have not been released yet.
Police Officers' Exposure To Infectious Diseases
Steve Gordon, a spokesman for the L.A. Police Protective League, told local reporters that the LAPD officers did contract the infection during their run-in with the transient person at the station.
He went on to highlight the different dangers that the police have to face when dealing with homeless people.
"Our officers are being put in very hazardous conditions, with the addiction to drugs, the homeless encampments, the feces, the needles, everything throughout these encampments," Gordon noted.
"There's only one thing that these cameras can't catch and that is the smell and the vile conditions in which some of these addicted people live in."
However, Gordon's assertion might not be the right course, according to some medical expert.
Dr. Brad Spellberg, chief medical officer at Los Angeles County-University of Southern California Medical Center, said placing the blame on any one source would be unfair and inaccurate.
He said it would not be possible to say that the illness came from one particular person or another. He explained that the infection can be found everywhere.
What Is MRSA?
MRSA is a staph bacteria that is highly contagious and highly resistant to antibiotic treatments, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
While the microbe is most commonly associated with serious skin infections, it can also cause lung problems (pneumonia) in some cases.
If MRSA is left untreated, symptoms of the infection can worsen and result in sepsis. This is the human body's extreme response to illnesses and considered a life-threatening medical emergency. Sepsis can rapidly lead to tissue damage, organ failure, and even death.
In hospitals and other medical facilities, MRSA can cause patients to develop pneumonia and infections to the bloodstream and surgical sites.
People's risk for the infection increases, depending on their activities or environment. Those who are often involved in crowding, skin-to-skin contact, as well as those who share equipment or supplies with others are the ones susceptible to the bacteria.
Some examples of these are athletes, daycare and school students, military personnel living in barracks, and medical patients.
The MRSA bacteria can enter the body through broken skin such as abrasion or incision sites.
The CDC recommends the following steps to help prevent MRSA infection from spreading:
- Always keep the hands and body clean, especially after exercising.
- Keep cuts, scrapes, and other wounds clean and well-covered until they heal.
- Avoid sharing personal items with other people such as razors and towels.
- Seek treatment early for possible MRSA infection.