Over 90,000 people per year are developing life threatening infections caused by the drug resistant staph germ MRSA. The germ is common in hospitals, and is spreading to schools, prisons and locker rooms.10% of those infected develop flesh eating disease.
21 schools in Bedford, Virginia have been shut down following the death of 17 year old student Ashton Bonds, who contracted the deadly disease. Hospitalized for over 2 weeks, all antibiotic treatments failed to halt the germs spread throughout the teens body, finally spreading to his kidneys, liver, lungs and the muscles around his heart.
Many of the infections are being spread in gyms and locker rooms, where athletes - perhaps suffering from cuts or abrasions, share sports equipment or towels . Bonds played football last year but was not playing this season.
His death prompted the school closings. Wednesday will involve intensive cleaning of all surfaces and equipment in the school buildings, bathrooms, gymnasiums and locker rooms.
The staph germ can be carried by perfectly healthy individuals, housing itself on the skins surface or inside the nose. It is associated with sometimes-horrific skin infections, but it also causes blood infections, pneumonia and other illnesses.
A study of the "Superbug" conducted by the Center For Disease Control revealed that the number of incidences reported correlate to 32 out of every 100,000 people contracting the disease.
"That's an "astounding" figure, said an editorial in Wednesday's Journal of the American Medical Association, which published the study."
Researches found that approximately 1/4 of cases involved persons that were hospitalized. Those considered hospitalized include patients in long term care facilities, persons receiving dialysis, or recovering from recent surgeries. Open wounds and exposure to medical equipment are the most common means of contracting the staph infection.
There were 988 reported deaths among infected people in the study, for a rate of 6.3 per 100,000. That would translate to 18,650 deaths annually, although the researchers don't know if MRSA was the cause in all cases.
"If these deaths all were related to staph infections, the total would exceed other better-known causes of death including AIDS which killed an estimated 17,011 Americans in 2005 - said Dr. Elizabeth Bancroft of the Los Angeles County Health Department, the editorial author."
Hygiene, combined with doctors not over prescribing antibiotics are the first lines of defense. Hospitals are taking extra precautions when admitting anyone with an open wound that appears infected, isolating them from the general population until tests for MRSA have been completed. Frequent hand washing, as well as not sharing athletic equipment is also recommended.