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Fishermen seek inquiry into skin infection cases

At least 10 cases of staph infections have been reported in Port Orange, and more along the Gulf Coast.

By Associated Press
Published October 26, 2003

DAYTONA BEACH - An association that represents offshore commercial fishermen is asking the state to investigate why so many fishermen in Florida are contracting a staph infection after going to sea.

There have been at least 10 cases of methicillin-resistant staphylococcus aureus in Port Orange in Volusia County, and other cases have been reported by commercial fishermen along the Gulf Coast, said Bob Jones, president of the Southeastern Fisheries Association.

"The Florida seafood industry wants to know what is going on and how severe the problem is, and how severe it might become," Jones wrote in a letter to Gov. Jeb Bush.

"If the fishermen are getting the staph (infection), could it also be in the fish? Is the ocean water being tested by any agency?"

Dr. Howard Rodenberg, who heads the Volusia County Health Department, said there's no medical evidence the staph infection is coming from the ocean.

"We see no public threat," he said. "People are probably getting it in the traditional way, person to person."

For added assurance, Rodenberg said his department is checking with public health and marine agencies to see if there's a way to test ocean water for the land-borne bacteria.

The Florida Department of Health has not tested the state's sea water for the infection.

An outbreak of the infection in sea water would be very unlikely since the staph germs live on human skin and inanimate objects, said Dr. Loren G. Miller, an assistant professor at the UCLA School of Medicine's Division of Infectious Diseases.

Cases of staph infection are on the rise nationally and in Florida.

The infection has struck at least nine athletes at two Panhandle schools this year.

Santa Rosa County Superintendent John Rogers confirmed that football players at Pace and Navarre high schools have had the infections.

The bacteria is spread easily by athletes sharing equipment, using the same towel or even sitting on the same bench. If not treated, it can infect a victim's blood, bones or heart.

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