Flu-MRSA a Dangerous ComboApr 28, 2008 | Parker Waichman LLP There has been a recent and disturbing increase in the number of children who have fallen ill and died from both the flu and MRSA. State and federal disease investigators are tracking the situation and Massachusetts’s health authorities have linked two recent childhood flu deaths to the methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus germ, known as MRSA. Nationally, of the 74 children known to have died from the flu in the United States in 2006-07, 22 also had staph infections. Most of those staph infections were of the fast-moving, drug resistant MRSA.
Authorities at the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) have expressed deep concern for this issue and are planning on executing a monitoring network for patients co-infected with flu and MRSA during the next flue season. Experts say that data and other findings could assist doctors in preventing flu-MRSA cases from turning fatal.
MRSA, the mutated form of staph which was once seen chiefly in hospitals, MRSA is now striking healthy people outside of hospitals and nursing homes and has emerged as a community-based—as opposed to hospital-derived—disease. Among patients infected with community-based methicillan-resistant Staphylococcus aureus—MRSA—over 20 percent were dead within one year, according to new research conducted at McGill University Health Center, Montreal, Canada. Since MRSA began migrating more broadly a decade ago, it has endangered otherwise healthy children and adults. Also, scientists suspect the flu is playing a deadly role in MRSA cases: The flu virus acts like a doorman for MRSA, causing changes in the respiratory tract that allow the lethal germ to enter and devastate.
According to 2005 CDC figures, nearly 19,000 people died in the U.S. from MRSA infections alone with an additional 94,000 were seriously sickened. Of the 19,000 patients studied in 2005, 2,000 patients were healthy people contracting community-based MRSA. In Canada, about 220,000 people are sickened and an additional 8,000 to 12,000 die each year. Also, well-known but not widely publicized, patients surviving MRSA often require amputations to cure the infections. MRSA—without associated flu—has infected players from four NFL teams, some NYC firefighters, and has infected or killed a growing number of school children. After one year of follow-up, 21.8 percent of the MRSA patients studied had died compared to only five percent of those in the non-MRSA research group. "Our study suggests that MRSA can be a potentially serious infection in the community leading to increased mortality," the investigators concluded, adding that the "judicious use of antibiotics is essential to prevent these quite deadly commu
nity-acquired MRSA infections," given the emergence of antibiotic resistance when antibiotics are used indiscriminately.
Today, super bugs are epidemic, incurable, and deadly diseases that stemmed from easy-to-treat infections such as the mutated form of staph. In the case of MRSA, if the infection is not treated early, it becomes resistant to all but the one antibiotic of last resort. Formerly this antibiotic was used in only the most potent of cases; however, today, this drug is being used more and more and—as a result—MRSA is showing signs of developing resistance to this last drug.