MRSA Staph a Growing Threat?

MRSA staph cases seem almost an everyday occurance at schools these days. Why the sudden increase of this rarely heard of disease?

Actually, MRSA staph has been around a while. It's been known since at least 1959. It has been a growing problem in our hospitals and nursing homes for several years.

MRSA was a primary or significant cause in 2003 of nearly a thousand hospital patient deaths in The U.K., and in 2004, it was cited in over three thousand deaths.

Although hospitals and nursing homes are still the riskiest places for MRSA infection, they are far from the only environments where people are at risk. MRSA staph contracted outside of a medical facility is known as CA-MRSA, or community associated MRSA - capsiplex sport. Currently, about one in eight cases of MRSA infection fall into this category, but the numbers are rising.

Stateside, although the fatality rate of MRSA hasn't been as high as in Great Britain, and therefore MRSA staph hasn't received as much publicity, it is still widespread and growing rapidly. One report by the CDC says that in 2000 there were an estimated 125,000 hospitalizations in the U.S. that involved a new diagnosis of MRSA infection at some point during their stay.

Schools are of special concern because young children lack fully developed immune systems. Children also have lots of physical contact, share objects, and generally don't think about hygiene.

Outbreaks of MRSA staph are common among high school and Jr. high football teams, as that contact sport creates a lot of cuts, scrapes, and abrasions.

Environments where people come into close physical contact with each other are the riskiest places for contracting MRSA staph. The number of MRSA infection cases in California prisons has risen sharply in the past few years.

Areas where physical contact with other people, or with surfaces or materials that an infected person has touched, such as athletic halls, locker rooms, playgrounds, etc., require extra precautions. The CDC has already identified clusters of MRSA staph in such places.

News accounts report on of extra cleanings of school surfaces to prevent the spread of MRSA staph. Such a "surface" approach is good for PR, but not sufficient as a long term solution.