Cops and others who work the streets downtown call the boils, abscesses and infections they see all the time Skid Row staph — a strain of methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus. It's nasty stuff, and it's spreading to people who merely have contact with the homeless, the LA Weekly's Christine Pelisek reports.
In 2005, staph infections hit at least 20 Los Angeles city firefighters, many of whom work on Skid Row. A staph infection landed a deputy city attorney, who works out of the Central Division police station, in the hospital for two weeks. An LAPD helicopter pilot, who helped a homeless man across the street, almost had to have his leg amputated. Two doctors working at a wound-care clinic got infected. A chaplain and a night manager working at the Union Rescue Mission got it. So did the director of public affairs and two other employees at Midnight Mission. Besides Hauck, a deputy chief and a rookie officer at LAPD’s Central Division have been diagnosed with Skid Row staph.
“It is very seldom discussed down here, but it is a big fear for my officers every day,” says Captain Andrew Smith. “There are a lot of things that have been swept under the table, and we are really trying to shine a light on what is happening in Skid Row. I don’t think there is a lot of public awareness of this infection. We convened a meeting with the county one year ago and told them what our concerns are with the virus. I don’t think they were as concerned as we are.”
Pelisek's piece focuses on why the county Department of Health Services isn't doing enough to arrest the spread. The pictures with the story are fairly disgusting.