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Skid Row Staph 

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Departmental Guidelines

Christine Pelisek’s article on skin infections on Skid Row [“The Scourge of Skid Row,” Oct. 20-26] did a disservice to your readers by providing some inaccurate information about this condition. Since 2002, when community-associated methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA or “staph”) was first identified in the county, we have been at the forefront of investigating this disease and providing information about it to consumers and health-care providers. We have a dedicated Web site about MRSA in the community (www.lapublic health.org) which contains a wealth of information, including community and professional education, prevention guidelines, photographs and treatment options.

Contrary to Pelisek’s article, staph infections are not primarily spread by casual contact. There are significant risk factors that increase the chance of acquiring a staph infection, including crowded living conditions, lack of cleanliness, and exposure to contaminated surfaces and sharing personal items. These risk factors, unfortunately, are more common in correctional facilities or among the homeless, making it difficult if not impossible to entirely control the spread of staph infections. Nonetheless, it is incorrect and misleading to suggest that this condition is only found in these environments. MRSA has become a common problem throughout L.A. County and the nation in all socioeconomic groups. What we are seeing in L.A. County is similar to what other jurisdictions are seeing across the nation.

The article also omitted the work that we have done with the Department of Health Services with regard to staph in Skid Row. In early 2005, we sent guidelines on reducing the spread of staph to managers of homeless shelters, gyms and schools across the county. Public Health has also provided training to social-service and medical providers, homeless advocacy groups and Skid Row clinics to facilitate education, prevention, awareness and treatment of staph infections. Public Health nurses provide routine services with the homeless population in efforts to identify and treat infections early on.

We have also worked with the L.A. County EMS and L.A. City police and fire departments, among other public agencies, to educate and to develop guidelines on the prevention of staph among first responders. Recently, we have developed educational material and guidelines for all people who have significant contact with members of the public, including mental-health and social workers.

Public Health is committed to continuing to work with its community partners to implement long-term solutions to the situation on Skid Row. However, until we find a long-term solution for the homeless, we will continue to emphasize access to care and prevention of all skin infections.

Jonathan E. Fielding, M.D., M.P.H.Director and Health OfficerCounty of Los Angeles Public Health DepartmentRocket Man

Kudos for publishing Paul Ciotti’s stellar, comprehensive investigation of a tragic-yet-un(re)solved homicide that snuffed the life from Mickey Thompson, a quintessential American hero [“Murder on the Last Turn,” Oct. 20-26]. However, even with the laundry list of accomplishments in his life — and despite your caption that credits Mickey Thompson with achieving a land-speed record of 406 mph in his four-engined streamliner — Thompson never set the land-speed record. In his racing career, he certainly set a plethora of somewhat arcane “class” records, but never the LSR.

The land-speed record is held by the fastest car and driver on the planet. It is established by recording and then averaging the speeds of two runs timed within a “measured mile.” After posting an initial speed, the racer has an hour to turn his or her car around and race in the opposite direction.

Thompson clocked a one-way speed of 406 mph in 1959, but due to damage to his machine’s drive shaft, he was unable to turn it around for the requisite backup run, as established by the official arbiter and sanction of world land-speed records, the Fédération Internationale de l’Automobile.

So 406 mph or no 406 mph, them’s the rules . . . ergo, after Thompson’s aborted effort, the land-speed record remained the benchmark and prize of Englishman John Cobb, who ran 394 mph at the Bonneville Salt Flats in 1947. This [record] was finally supplanted by Craig Breedlove and his jet-powered Spirit of America, at 407 mph in 1963.

Cole Coonce

Eagle Rock

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