Photo by: Denise Ritchie Infectious diseases, says the World Health Organization, “are caused by pathogenic microorganisms such as bacteria, viruses, parasites or fungi.”
According to the National Center for Health Statistics and the National Foundation of Infectious Diseases, that includes the 1.4 million Americans who have chronic hepatitis B infections along with another 3.9 million with chronic hepatitis C infections and the nearly 10,000 new cases of Tuberculosis that are diagnosed in this country each year.
Add sexually transmitted disease and illnesses like chicken pox, whooping cough, Diphtheria, Meningitis and Vibrio is to that list, along with a seemingly endless number of potential influenza viruses, and you might think an infectious disease specialist like Cleveland Clinic Indian River Hospital’s Dr. Michael Phillips wouldn’t have enough hours in the day to take on anything else.
You would be wrong.
“In Vero Beach,” Phillips explains, “we see a lot of what we call bread-and-butter things like skin and soft tissue infections. And pneumonias: a lot of pneumonias. A lot of urinary tract infections and then bone and soft tissue infections. And then, with world travel, we get exotic things every now and then,” but he quickly adds he spends a good part of his week at the hospital’s ambulatory care center treating diabetic wounds.
“Infections and wounds,” Phillips says, “go hand in hand. With any condition that gives you a chronic wound, you have a potential for infection.”
However, “not everybody I see in here has an infection,” Phillips adds. “Often I’m referred patients who [other physicians] think are infected and I think at least two or three times a year we get referrals for patients who have had wounds for several months and they’ve been treated with 10 different antibiotics,” but when Phillips examines them and performs a biopsy, this so-called wound turns out to be skin cancer.
“Something that can look infectious isn’t always infectious,” Phillips says.
Like most up-to-date medical specialists, Phillips is keenly aware of the overuse of antibiotics. The New York Times went so far as to say antibiotics “are not just overprescribed. They often pose special risks to older patients, including tendon problems, nerve damage and mental health issues.” And they are all too often prescribed incorrectly.
“People are being treated for allergies with antibiotics and they’re just inappropriate for that.”
While it might be appropriate, say, to share photos of your children or grandchildren with friends on social media, one thing that clearly frosts Phillips is people “sharing” their antibiotic prescriptions.
“What we see,” says Philips, “is people who borrow their friends’ antibiotics. We see that a lot. [Friends will say], ‘I have some leftover whatever. Do you want to borrow it? It looks like you need an antibiotic.’
“The risk with the overuse of antibiotics is that we now see [antibiotic-resistant] infections. That’s what we’ve been dealing with for the last 20 or 30 years.”
He points to the development of infections like MRSA, which is a staph infection that has become resistant to the antibiotics that were used to treat it.
Then, almost boastfully, Phillips adds, “we have an excellent infection-control program in this hospital and the numbers – year after year – have been well below the national average for infections.”
Of course, Vero being Vero, Phillips admits that new, “imported” problems appear all the time. “Everybody comes here from everywhere else to retire. So we import a lot of our diseases. I think that’s something we get used to handling because there’s always something new coming from somewhere else that we have to adapt to and take care of.”
Dr. Michael Phillips is an infectious disease specialist who is also board certified in internal medicine. His office is at 3450 11th Court, Suite 203. The phone number is 772-794-5631.