I read two NYT articles about medical diseases that conflate to a really frightening juncture. They led me to find background data from a medical website and to do a Google search on one lead author.
Let’s start with MRSA, the acronym for methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus. Roughly 25% of us are staph carriers, but only 2% of us carry MRSA, the antibiotic resistant form that causes deadly complications so frequently and is so difficult to treat. Infections with “ordinary” staph bacteria can be very serious, but respond, in most cases, to the drugs commonly used. The NIH has an excellent summary of MRSA issues and I’ll paste in a link to it below.
An August 11, 2011 NYT article mentioned that MRSA skin infections occur in those more prone to cuts and scrapes: athletes, the military and our kids among them. A professor of Medicine and Pediatrics at UC Davis Medical School is quoted as saying, “…in most communities, community acquired MRSA has become the dominant cause of soft tissue infection requiring emergency department care and inpatient care.”
In a previous post I noted that a neighbor ended up in our local ICU for a prolonged stay after a scape on his elbow resulted in a rapid spread of redness up his arm unto his chest. As you might surmise, this was an MRSA-caused illness.
MRSA is a major urgent medical problem; almost 19,000 people died from this dire staph in 2005. In that timeframe most MRSA infections were felt to occur in immunocompromised patients.
But now hospital admissions for skin infection in kids have climbed; the rate of these more than doubled between 2000 and 2009. The overall rate still seemed low, 9.4 cases per 10,000 children, but that translates into just under 72,000 kids being hospitalized in that one year.
In the average year roughly 4,000 kids wind up in pediatric ICUs yearly because of severe flu infections and of course many times as many have mild cases of flu. The current study, headed by an associate professor of Anesthesia at Harvard, looked at children who got flu infections during the 2009-2010 H1N1 epidemic and were admitted to ICUs in 35 different locations. Of those 838 youngsters, nearly nine percent, 75 of those kids, died; their median age was 6.
More than a quarter of the children in the study were previously considered totally healthy; they didn’t have asthma or a neurological disease; they were not immunosuppressed and didn’t have other chronic conditions. So of the total, 251 kids were otherwise healthy prior to getting the flu; 18 of them died. The only predictor of death in healthy children in this group was MRSA infection; if they had this co-existing risk factor their risk of dying increased eight times when compared to those who did not have MRSA.
My take on the study, and that of the lead researcher, is it’s time to make sure our kids and grandkids get vaccinated for flu on a yearly basis. There are still people who never want their children vaccinated; physicians in almost all cases would disagree with them.
Talk it over with your own pediatrician.