November 24, 2009

Deadly MRSA bug invades more gyms and schools

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We obsess over getting swine flu. But it’s not the only potentially fatal, highly communicable, treatment-resistant bug we’ve got to worry about this winter.

Andy Dworkin of The Oregonian points to a  new study in the December issue of Emerging Infectious Diseases that shows that MRSA – a drug-resistant staph bacterium that has been a particular issue for hospitals — is now spreading widely in gyms and schools.

MRSA has been a particular issue for hospitals, where people whose immune systems are already compromised, can die from picking the bug up while they’re hospitalized. If you’re curious about how scary that can be, read the Seattle Times’ analysis of MRSA cases in Washington hospitals.

But while the incidence of “hospital- acquired” MRSA cases has been holding steady around the country, cases involving the “community acquired” strain – also antibiotic resistant, and also potentially deadly – have increased dramatically.

Community-acquired MRSA accounted for under 4 percent of staff infections in 1999, and nearly 30 percent by 2006.

Awareness, coupled with hygiene, wiping down equipment, not sharing towels, and other basic infection control practices, is the best defense.

Carol Smith

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