MRSA outbreak at wild animal park

February 5, 2008 3:09:53 PM PST
6 Workers at San Diego Wild Animal Park fighting drug-resistant skin infections; may have contracted it via a baby elephant

A group of workers at the San Diego Wild Animal Park are recovering after coming down with the drug-resistant staph infection, M-R-S-A.

Health officials say the path of infection is an unusual one.

Dr. Wilma Wooten, the county health officer says in the past several weeks, six workers in the exhibit have come down with rash-like symptoms.

Officials believe it likely began when a worker transmitted the MRSA to a sick baby elephant.

Other workers may have then picked it up from the elephant.

Dr. Wooten says, "People were nursing the animal and trying to nurture it so they could have been re-infected back."

So far, three workers have been confirmed with MRSA, a highly-drug resistant staph infection. Test results on the other three workers are due back in the next three days. Because the MRSA was caught early, all three are expected to recover.

Park officials say the affected area has been sterilized, and it is not open to the general public.

"The risk to the general public is minimal. These individuals, the staff have no interaction with the general public."

Several employees say more staff are wearing gloves, and they are washing their hands more frequently.

A 2007 CDC study estimates 19-thousand people die every year from MRSA.

Meanwhile, the baby elephant, was put down Monday. Park officials don't believe she died from the MRSA.