The Los Angeles Police Department (LAPD) claims the unidentified officers, who work at the LAPD West Valley Station in Reseda, Los Angeles, might have been exposed to the drug-resistant strain of Staphylococcus aureus (staph) bacteria last week.
An unidentified union official claims that the officers may have been infected as a result of contact with a homeless person, CBS Los Angeles reports. According to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), however, studies have found that one in every three people (33%) carries staph bacteria without developing any illness.
All three officers are expected to recover completely, according to multiple reports.
On Tuesday, the LAPD released a statement confirming that all work areas that may have been exposed to the bacteria have been disinfected.
"The health, safety, and well-being of our Los Angeles Police Department officers is critical and we are ensuring the officers exposed to this disease are cared for. First responders throughout the region and especially here in Los Angeles are constantly responding to incidents that put them at risk of potential exposure to various diseases, and that's why the Department takes this incident very seriously. All of the work areas that may have been exposed have been disinfected," the statement reads.
The staph bacteria is commonly found on people's hair and skin as well as in the noses and throats of humans and animals. Many strains are harmless, but some can cause system-wide, difficult to treat and potentially fatal infections. Methicillin-resistant staph (MRSA), the most frightening strain, is resistant to commonly used antibiotics, including methicillin, amoxicillin, penicillin and oxacillin.
Symptoms of a skin staph infection can include swollen, red and painful bumps on the skin. The bumps can be warm to the touch, filled with pus and may also be accompanied by a fever.
If the disease is left untreated, it can cause sepsis, a serious condition resulting from harmful microorganisms in the blood or other tissues that leads to the malfunctioning of organs. Current treatment for MRSA typically involves the antibiotic vancomycin being administered intravenously.
Staph is commonly spread at hospitals. People who spend time in healthcare facilities, have medical devices inside their bodies, inject drugs or come in contact with people already infected with the bacteria are at higher risks of contracting the disease, according to the CDC.
There has been a rise in staph infections among people who inject drugs In 2016, 9% of all serious staph infection cases were related to drug users, compared to 4% in 2011, the CDC notes. In fact, drug users are 16 times more likely to contract serious staph infections.