BOISE -- While the number of antibiotic-resistant staph infections in hospitals is dropping, the Centers for Disease Control says, more and more people are getting the infections from outside the health care systems, in places like gyms, schools, and jails.
One Boise teenager says she was exposed to staph bacteria that became a dangerous, potentially deadly infection from somewhere in the community, her family believes most likely, from a gym.
"Right when we came back from Christmas break, I was working out at the gym, and then when I came home, I noticed this little spot on my chest," high school student Kya Dudney said.
After some tests. Dudney's doctors, including Dr. Elisabeth Kuper, found what turned out to be an antibiotic-resistant form of a Staph Infection, called Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus, or MRSA. With antibiotics proving unhelpful, Dudney quickly had to go through painful infection-draining procedures at the doctor's office.
"All I remember is like crying and screaming," Dudney said.
Those procedures didn't get rid of the problem, and the dangerous infection spread and grew and became more painful. Dudney had to go to St. Luke's for emergency surgery to remove part of her breast.
"Like in the back of my mind, through all of this, is that I could die from this," Dudney said. "It was just... scary. I didn't know what to do. I didn't know how to deal with it."
Finally, her doctors got the infection under control before it got worse.
"If that hadn't have happened, and it had continued to dive even deeper, then it could have gotten into her blood stream, and those do tend to be pretty serious cases," Dr. Kuper said.
Kuper says Dudney's case was one of the more severe cases of community-contracted MRSA infections because it required surgery, but she says anyone is at risk of picking up the bacteria, which could turn into an infection.
"Staph is a group of bacteria that is very, very common. It is on most people's skin, to be honest. It's a bacteria that doesn't necessarily cause an infection unless it somehow gets into the body," Kuper said.
Kuper says common places to pick up the bacteria include at home or work on things like refrigerator handles and toilet seats, and in locker rooms and gyms. That being said, Kuper say it's very easy to prevent picking up the bacteria or getting it inside your system.
"The best ways to prevent it are actually really good hand-washing and hygiene, and wiping down of those highly touched surfaces, just routine cleaning," Kuper said.
She also says this should not deter people from working out, playing sports and going to the gym.
"Wash your hands before and after you play sports. Definitely wipe down equipment before because you never know if the person in front of you did, and wipe down afterwards," Kuper said.
Dudney now takes that advice very seriously, but she still has to always worry about another infection popping up, which did happen last August.
"The bacteria's going to be in me forever. I can't really get rid of it," Dudney said.
These days, Kya stashes hand sanitizer everywhere: "My car, my backpack, my purse, everywhere," Dudney said.
Her family has changed their routines a bit too, with daily laundry loads, and plenty of check-ins.
"That's kind of what our normal is now. A couple times a month, we ask her how she's doing, and if she notices anything, she comes to us right away, and we go to the doctor," Caleb Stone, Dudney's stepfather, said.
This has also had a big financial impact on Dudney's family, even with insurance, they say it's been tough and they've started fundraising. Her stepfather says it's most frustrating because it's all from a pretty simple infection they now know to be pretty preventable.
Doctors say community-contracted MRSA infections are often confused for spider bites and can look like small boils that are red, swollen, painful, or have liquid inside. They often happen in areas where people have small cuts or that are covered by hair.
To learn much more about MRSA from the CDC, click here.