Singapore—Members from one family had to be hospitalized last month after a trip to Sentosa Beach left them with skin infections that needed to be opened and drained.
The three family members, who had gone to the Tanjong Beach at Sentosa on July 23, ended up at the National University Hospital for skin surgeries on their infected wounds. The young son of one of their neighbours also developed a skin irritation on his leg after having gone to a floating obstacle course in Palawan Beach called HydroDash on August 4.
The five-year-old boy had a coin-sized boil below his knee. According to The New Paper (TNP) the boy’s doctor told his mother that he believed the boil was caused by a staph infection.
But how the family and the boy were infected is still unknown.
These incidents have prompted the National Environment Agency (NEA) to issue a hygiene advisory for the safety of would-be beach-goers.
“Beach users are advised to regularly wash their hands, avoid swimming or wading in bodies of water with open wounds, and shower after exposure to marine water,” the NEA said.
The culprit behind the skin infections is Staphylococcus aureus (staph), a common and mostly harmless bacteria present in our surroundings, including in either the nostrils or skin of three out of every 10 persons. And while staph infections usually cause minor skin irritations, in serious cases, however, they may cause sepsis, or even lead to death.
Staph infections can be easily transmitted from one person to another. The bacteria has been found in water environments such as beaches and swimming pools, hence the need to wash off after emerging from such environments. And, as the NEA advisory said, people with open wounds should take extra care.
According to the website of the Mayo Clinic, “Staph infections can turn deadly if the bacteria invade deeper into your body, entering your bloodstream, joints, bones, lungs or heart. A growing number of otherwise healthy people are developing life-threatening staph infections.”
Such infections are treated via antibiotics and through draining the wounds in the skin, but certain staph infections have become resistant to some common antibiotics, which makes heeding the advisory from the NEA to maintain proper hygiene even more important.
The World Health Organization has not set guidelines for measuring the level of the staph bacteria in recreational beaches, and so this is not checked in the country’s waters. The NEA, therefore, has said it cannot determine whether the levels of the staph bacteria in Singapore’s recreational waters are a public health risk.
Regarding the family that had to be hospitalized for the infections, TNP quotes infectious disease doctor at the National University of Singapore’s Saw Swee Hock School of Public Health, Associate Professor Hsu Li Yang, as saying, “The family members may have already carried the staph bacteria, and micro-injuries sustained then led to the infections.”
Infectious disease specialist Dr Leong Hoe Nam, of Mount Elizabeth Novena Hospital said that the family may have spread the infection to each other. —/TISG
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