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FEAR of the Catch

Yesterday at work, I came across a patient of mine; who I will call Teri; who appeared to be extremely frazzled.  She wanted to know if she could discuss somethings with me of importance to her.  She went on to tell me a story about a woman in her church (Martha) who is Diabetic and who for the past few months, had a series of hospitalizations, and surgical interventions related to an ulcer on her foot.  Later, this woman had an amputation of her foot and part of her leg. 

My patient, Teri was concerned that she could also "get" this type of infection and she was very frightened.  Martha had a MRSA colonization (a bacterial infection) in her nose, which her brother also contracted during the course of her healing.  My patient said that her Diabetic friend, Martha was now out of the hospital and now wanted to continue her friendship with the group of friends she previously had, which included my patient.  Teri said that at one point Martha wanted Teri to hold her cane.  Teri was repulsed and shocked that Martha would ask her to do such a thing.  Teri said, "I do not want to hold anything of hers.  She might give me an infection.  I am diabetic too, and I do not want to get anything; least of all a MRSA colonization and a foot amputation."  Teri went on to say that Martha even sat in her car, and that others were concerned that being near Martha would be detrimental to their health. 

Akin to the fear of Leprosy, when little was known about a disease, Diabetes and the thought of amputations, leads people to feel that they can "Catch" it.  I explained to my patient Teri that no one could "catch" MRSA.  Yes, if my patient had an open wound and would come in close contact with Martha's open, and infected wound; and did not wash the area she came in contact with, she could also get the infection.  Holding someone's cane or allowing a person who was at one time infected to sit in your car, is not at all going to transfer the MRSA infection to another individual.  I explained to my patient Teri that if the doctors no longer have her friend  in isolation and Martha had taken her complete course of antibiotics, she is safe from infecting others and the doctors are also obviously comfortable that she does not have a MRSA colonization.
It is quite sad and unreal that these situations come up in society.  At least my patient had the frame of mind to ask me, no matter how silly she felt.  Some people live with that fear, however, not asking any one and thinking that just by staying away from someone they will not get the same disease.  People also do not think about how their actions will affect one another.  People, out of fear shun others, for no fault of their own; but simply because they had an illness that no one really knows about and everyone is afraid to "catch"

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