Top Doctors: Q&A Hashisaki (Infectious Diseases)

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Peter Hashisaki, M.D.
Specialty: Infectious diseases
Education: University of Washington, 1975
Hospital affiliation: Overlake Hospital Medical Center
Regarding antibiotic overuse: “With a lot of newer and more super antibiotics, we are using them very judiciously, and the bacteria is remaining very sensitive. I’m pleased with that.”

What attracted to you to your specialty?
It’s like a puzzle. When I was a kid, I played chess and watched Sherlock Holmes. It wasn’t until I was practicing infectious diseases that I realized that the detective-type work of my profession was an extension of what I was doing even when I was a kid.

There has been a lot of media coverage regarding MRSA (a serious form of staph infection). How concerned should the average person be?
The recent articles in the papers have been kind of misleading. It got everybody really excited, which may be good for awareness, but it wasn’t completely accurate. In order for MRSA to enter your system and for someone to become infected, it has to burrow beneath the surface of the skin or get into the bloodstream. For most people, MRSA remains on the surface of the skin…where it does not turn on the radar for your immune system.

What are some of the best methods for avoiding MRSA?
Washing hands remains very effective. Also, in the last few years, hand sanitizers have become available and the more you use, the better.

There has been discussion that the overuse of hand sanitizers can decrease effectiveness. Is that true?
For the average person, it’s fine. You can’t overuse something like that. It’s the antibiotics that can be overused. There has been more of an effort in the last 10 years than ever before to be cautious with antibiotics. We’ve really seen an impact and a decrease in antibiotic resistance.

How is the greater Seattle area doing in regard to antibiotic use?
The people who control hospital antibiotic usage mostly do an excellent job of monitoring and restricting it. I’m impressed with this area and feel that we’re using them very judicially, and the bacteria is remaining very sensitive.

What is the best way for travelers to protect themselves against catching an infectious disease?
Again, like your mother always said, the most important thing is hand washing. Most of what is going to make you sick when you travel is something that you will put into your own mouth with your own two hands. Of course, also get the appropriate vaccinations before you go.

What was the last thing that you did for fun?
It was probably two days ago when I met a 19-year-old girl who had been born with AIDS.…She was pretty upbeat and being with her was the highlight of my day. Someone like that has a really profound impact when you see them being really brave and courageous.