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Staph Infection Kills Teen

Posted by Jane Akre
Monday, November 05, 2007 2:55 PM EST
Category: Major Medical
Tags: None

MRSA. (Pronounced MUR-sah)

Expect to hear more about MRSA ever since the government’s first assessment of the potentially deadly staphylococcus infection finds its growth is out of control. No one knows why it is mutating into strains with unique properties that make it a more virulent form of infection.

Many people would rather not worry. MRSA has been identified in hospital settings for the past two decades. What has changed is that the drug-resistant bacteria is increasingly found outside of hospital settings and affecting more than the weak and vulnerable.

In the latest reports - four siblings attending public school in Far Rockaway, New York have been diagnosed with the bacterial infection. The school is being cleaned.

The mother of a boy who died from the so-called “superbug” is filing a $25 million lawsuit against New York City alleging negligence in the death of 12-year-old Omar, her only child.

Aileen Rivera says Kings County Hospital showed recklessness and carelessness when an emergency room attending physician failed to diagnose Omar with MRSA. Instead, they prescribed an antihistamine and sent him home. Omar died two days later.

Ashton Bonds was just 17 and a senior at Staunton River High School in Bedford, Virginia. After feeling pain in his side, he went to the hospital. But doctors ruled out appendicitis. Three days later he was back in the hospital. That’s when he was diagnosed with a MRSA infection. Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) is a type of bacterial infection that does not get better with antibiotic treatment.

The MRSA had spread throughout his body--to his kidneys, liver, lungs and the muscles around his heart.

Monday morning October 15th, Ashton died when doctors could not drain the infection from his lungs because a blood clot, located near his heart, was inoperable.

What Is Staph?

Staph is the shortened name for Staphylococcus bacteria. Named after the Greek word staphyle (bunch of grapes) and coccos (granule), under the microscope, staph bacteria appears in grape-like clusters.

Normally staph is found on the skin and in soil and does not cause any harm. However, staphylococci can grow on food and cause food poisoning.

One form, Staphylococcus aureus, can infect wounds while Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) which doesn’t respond to treatment from the beta-lactam antibiotics including, methicillin, oxacillin, penicillin and amoxicillin. It has become a major cause of infections in hospitals. It can turn a minor skin irritation into an abscess that eats away at tissue. If the bacteria travels to the lungs it can cause pneumonia or spread further into the blood stream as happened to Ashton.

MRSA bacteria live on dry surfaces and when Ashton died, 21 schools were shut down for cleaning to contain it spreading from skin-to-skin contact. Often MRSA is spread by casual contact in locker rooms where open wounds and shared equipment make transmission easier.

Ashton, who had been a football player, was not playing this season.

Schools nationwide report they are experiencing an increase in MRSA. Teams of cleaners have been brought in to wipe down locker rooms and hallways with a bleach solution. Sill 28 students in four high schools in Anne Arundle County, Maryland contracted MESA in September and October.

Nationwide Epidemic

In the government’s first estimate of MRSA, the October issue of the Journal of the American Medical Association reports a CDC study showing more than 90,000 people contract MRSA in the U.S. in 2005. Called now a major public health problem, cases were tracked in nine U.S. communities, Baltimore had the highest rate of MRSA. No one knows why.

Urban areas seem to have a disproportionate number of cases. The highest number of fatalities were among those age 65 and older, and blacks and males were disproportionately affected.

The major increase in invasive MRSA, 58 percent, has been seen in people outside of a hospital setting but with a history of a hospitalization in the past year. Overall about 32 invasive infections occur among 100,000 people. It’s estimated about 19,000 die each year from invasive MRSA, more than die from the AIDS virus.

Dr. Barry Farr, a retired epidemiologist from the University of Virginia School of Medicine says this is a “nationwide epidemic” and is “far out of control.”

Why is it Increasing?

When doctors give antibiotics to treat an infection, the course of treatment is generally ten days. If a person feels better and stops taking the antibiotic, the weaker bacteria have been killed off, while the stronger strains can come back with a vengeance. Bacteria evolve quickly to survive any adversity. That’s why you are always advised to complete the full ten days of prescribed antibiotics.

The overuse of antibiotics in animal feed, in childhood vaccines and in many personal care products may also be responsible for helping strains of bacteria to evolve to resist antibiotics. Unfortunately the development of new antibiotics is not a priority for the pharmaceutical industry currently, so this is a particularly worrisome problem.

What To Do To Prevent the Spread of MRSA:

· Wash hands longer with soap, water and alcohol-based hand rubs. Generally look for hand sanitizers such as Purell which are at least 62% alcohol based and use soap and water to clean your hands if you wash every third time you use a hand sanitizer. While they are named “Anti-bacterial” most soaps named as such actually use alcohol.

· However many consumer products called “Anti-bacterial” are actually “Anti-microbial”. Many personal products and consumer contain Triclosan, an antimicrobial agent, also marketed as Microban. There is concern that microbes might become resistant to it with overuse in toothpaste, liquid soap, deodorant, air filters, dishwashing detergent, glass cleaner, counter wipes and in linens and pillows. Triclosan mutates cell walls to kill them however stronger walled bacteria do not die and evolve stronger cells to survive. It is strongly recommended that these Triclosan/Microban be taken out of personal care and home products and its use be limited to a hospital setting. This two year old list from the UK show what products contain triclosan. Readers are encouraged to add or subtract from the list by doing their own research.

· The vaccine Prevnar is given to children to fight ear infections, but University of Rochester researchers have documented the emergence of another antibiotic-resistant strain of bacteria, Streptococcus pneumoniae. Researchers attribute the emergency of the strain to the use of Prevnar. An ear tap technique determines what strain of microbe is causing the ear infection. When Prevnar is used, it can erase that strain but researchers found that other strains became more prevalent and over three years became more resistant to antibiotics. Researchers strongly urge the ear tap diagnosis and to resist urges from parents who want to give their children antibiotics.

· A report in the New England Journal of Medicine finds hospital workers do not wash their hands between patients 40-50% of the time. Since MRSA is transmitted primarily from contact with hands or from something in a health care environment, you are strongly urged to ask a health care provider if they washed their hands before seeing you. Something polite like, “I’ve got the time to wait if you’d like to wash your hands first, thanks.”

· Hospitals should test for MRSA upon admittance and treat. Infection control practitioners in hospitals have been warning for years about MRSA. Hospitals are also cutting infection by isolating new patients and screening them for MRSA. Currently only a few dozen hospitals screen for MRSA while other countries have done so for years.

· Hospital workers are encouraged not to wear rings, nail polish and bracelets which can host bacteria. Also many are found on public transportation wearing their scrubs. Scrubs should be changed often and not taken from a public setting into a hospital.

· In the hospital, cleaning equipment such as IV poles and blood pressure cuffs is advised. Hospital workers are encouraged to change their white coats which can transfer disease.

· The Union of Concerned Scientists estimates 70% of antibiotics in the U.S. are given as feed additives to animals that we consume, to promote the animal’s growth. Antibiotics in feed continuously expose bacteria, resulting in a resistance and the drug-resistant bacteria gets into the water supply as a run-off from the farm. The EU has a ban on the use of antibiotics in animal feed. The UCS has voiced its concerns to the FDA and Capitol Hill to secure more funding for a FDA review of antibiotics in animal feed.

· You are advised by the CDC not to share personal items such as a towel or razor with others and cover any open wounds with a bandage. Once identified an infection can be treated early on by lancing and draining sores and using other antibiotics such as bactrim or vancomycin that might still be effective.

Consumers Union has been tracking the rate of staph infections through a series of articles posted on their web site.


1 Comment

Anonymous User
Posted by dee
Monday, November 05, 2007 8:47 PM EST

do it look like a ring worm

Comments for this article are closed.

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