NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

ATTACK OF THE SUPERBUGS

May 15, 2006

Thousands of children and adults have been infected by MRSA, or methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus, a bug once found only in hospitals or nursing homes. They are victims of a dangerous newer strain of MRSA that is raging across the country, spreading through communities, says USA Today.

It is causing infections from abscesses to deadly blood poisoning, bone infections and pneumonia, often in the young and the fit, including professional football players, high school athletes and previously healthy children.

It's not certain how common MRSA infections are:

  • A Centers for Disease Control study based on hospital discharge data estimates that in 1999-2000, nearly 126,000 people were hospitalized each year for MRSA infections, a rate of nearly 4 per 1,000 hospital discharges.
  • Another study of 11 emergency rooms across the country found that almost 60 percent of skin abscesses tested were caused by MRSA.

The new super-strain of MRSA has been concentrated in geographic regions, including California, Texas and Georgia, but that is changing. It's in Pittsburgh, Memphis, St. Louis, Omaha. It's becoming more common on the East Coast now. It's literally all over the country, say observers.

MRSA spreads through skin-to-skin contact and can be passed by using shared objects, such as razors or towels. It frequently hits more than one person in a family, and researchers in Canada have found that pets and their human owners can pass it back and forth.

Source: Anita Manning, "'Superbugs' spread fear far and wide; Drug-resistant staph infections no longer threaten just hospital patients; for reasons unknown, they're striking even healthy children and adults," USA Today, May 11, 2006.

 

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