MRSA infections hitting Maine fishermen

Public health officials in Maine have announced that a strain of drug resistant skin disease that has plagued sports teams and prisoners is now becoming a pest to lobster fishermen on a Maine island.

Health officials told that more than 30 people on Vinalhaven have come down with painful skin infections that had to be treated with repeated intravenous antibiotic treatment over the past two summers.

Mars said that the culprit is methicillin-resistant staphylococcus aureus, also known as MRSA, concluding that MRSA moves easily among lobster fisherman because of their work, which involves hauling traps and cutting bait – all activities that can leave small scrapes, pinches and cuts.

Maine State Epidemiologist Dr. Stephen Mars said there is no indication that the germ is linked to lobsters, reports. Mars told that boiling or steaming lobsters would kill any bacteria that infected fishermen who touch them may leave behind.

“They really do have a lot of small traumas to their hands,” Sears said, according to “That's just the nature of dealing with the ocean, the traps, the lobsters, the bait fish, a variety of things.”

Sears said no deaths have been linked to the outbreak but noted that several lobstermen have been treated more than once.

One lobster fisherman, Landon Morton, told that he has battled staph infections four or five times in the past year-and-a-half since first coming down with MRSA while working on a dock.

“It starts with a little red sore,” Morton said, reports. “Within a couple of hours it swells and turns really red. The first time I had it, about half of my leg was swollen and red. It's nasty.”

Nicole Coffin, of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta, said community-acquired MRSA, the strain that's making the rounds in Vinalhaven, tends to just to cause skin lesions. She said that, however, that it can become deadly if left untreated.