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Docs Worry About Deadly (Seasonal) Flu-Bacteria Combo

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  • Docs Worry About Deadly (Seasonal) Flu-Bacteria Combo


    Docs Worry About Deadly Flu-Bacteria Combo
    Researchers Track MRSA Trends

    POSTED: 8:47 am EDT April 25, 2008

    BOSTON -- Massachusetts state health officials are concerned about a deadly combination of influenza and bacteria that has been found in several cases where children have died from the flu.

    They are worried about the Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus infection, also called MRSA, which is very difficult to treat. Two children who died from flu in the state were found to have both the flu and MRSA, and officials are worried that there may be a link.

    MRSA was formerly found mostly in hospitals, but now is being found in healthy children and adults who carry the germ in their noses and throats. They don't know it, and there's no obvious harm, but doctors believe that people who are co-infected -- meaning they have both flu and MRSA -- are more likely to die.
    Click here to find out more!

    They're calling it "fluMRSA" and of the 74 children who died of flu nationwide in 2006 and 2007, 22 of them also had staph infection and most of those were MRSA cases. In Massachusetts, of the four children who died, two had MRSA.

    At the state health department lab, researchers are working with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to activate a monitoring network so they can track those with fluMRSA to detect any kind of tre

  • #2
    Re: Docs Worry About Deadly (Seasonal) Flu-Bacteria Combo


    Docs Fear Deadly Combo of Flu, MRSA
    Influenza Opens Door for Superbug Infections, Health Experts Say
    ABC News Medical Unit
    April 26, 2008

    One is a viral illness responsible for an estimated 35,000 deaths every year. The other is a potentially deadly superbug, a horrifying legacy of antibiotic overuse that is now resistant to almost every treatment today's doctors can throw at it.

    Even on their own, infection with either influenza or methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) can lead to a grave situation. But now, health officials are keeping an eye out for an even more harrowing threat -- simultaneous infection with both diseases. And they say that, in children at least, these cases of co-incident infection appear to be on the rise.

    So far, what the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has learned about the potential link between flu and MRSA in young patients is disturbing.

    According to an official health advisory issued Jan. 30, between Oct. 1, 2006, and Sept. 30, 2007, the agency received a total of 73 reports of child deaths due to influenza. In 22 of these cases, the children were also infected with some form of the staph bug, mostly MRSA.

    This compares with only three such cases of co-infection during the same period in 2005 and 2006, and just one such case identified in 2004-2005.

    And on Friday, the Boston Globe reported that Massachusetts health officials have linked MRSA to two recent deaths in children from the flu, renewing concerns over such a surge.

    It is not the first time that viral and bacterial infections have gone hand-in-hand, notes Dr. Jonathan C. Weissler, chief of medicine at University of Texas Southwestern University Hospitals in Dallas.

    "It is well known that community-acquired staph pneumonia is much more common in patients who have influenza," he says. "This has not changed."

    But when it does happen, the results can be disastrous. Infectious disease experts say spikes in this kind of co-incidence of influenza and drug-resistant bugs have happened in the past, with devastating results even for many healthy individuals.

    "The association of influenza viral infection disrupting the mucosa to permit secondary bacterial infection is not new," says Dr. Jerome Klein, professor of pediatrics at Boston University School of Medicine. "This is what happened in the influenza pandemic in 1957, which was co-incident with a pandemic of multidrug resistant staphylococcal infections. Not only were the elderly and immunocompromised prone to the combination, but otherwise healthy individuals were felled with substantial morbidity and mortality."

    "Thus, now when children -- and maybe adults also -- get influenza that is complicated by pneumonia, the bacterial cause of the pneumonia will likely be MRSA," says Dr. William Schaffner, professor and chairman of preventive medicine at the Vanderbilt University School of Medicine. "Thus, we have a new phenomenon that can cause serious, life-threatening disease and is more difficult to treat."

    Ganging Up on the Body's Defenses

    Contracting both the flu and MRSA at the same time is far more than simple coincidence, scientists believe. Rather, they suspect that the damage inflicted on the lungs and airways by the flu virus allows MRSA germs to sneak into vulnerable tissues and gain a foothold.

    The timing of concerns over the links between flu and MRSA come at a time when pandemic fears are growing and reports of nonhospital superbug infections are on the rise.

    "The public health groups in the state and the CDC are concerned about a confluence as 'the perfect storm,' a virulent influenzal pandemic -- for example, bird flu, SARS or [another viral illness] occurring at the same time as the increasing incidence of MRSA," says Klein.

    Beating the Bugs

    Schaffner says the key to heading off the dangerous partnership between influenza and MRSA is to go on the attack against the flu with increased vaccination rates.

    It is a task that is easier said than done. Schaffner notes that only about one-third of children actually receive the flu vaccine during a given season. Part of the reason behind this low turnout could be the number of groups that actively discourage parents from having their children vaccinated against the flu. These groups claim that these vaccines -- primarily, the forms of the vaccine that contain thimerosal -- are a primary cause of autism in children.

    One group, known as SafeMinds, provides a printable brochure on its Web site titled "Help Spread the Word About the Flu Vaccine." The group encourages supporters to leave the brochure in their doctors' offices and other locations.

    On the other side of the vaccination equation, current CDC recommendations do little to bolster flu vaccination among kids, as they urge vaccination primarily of children 6 months to 5 years old, and others "if feasible."

    But this could change soon. Schaffner says that by the 2008-2009 flu season, the agency will change its guidelines to recommend that everyone under the age of 19 receive the flu vaccine.

    Additionally, he hopes that parents and pediatricians will take immunization recommendations more seriously as additional information about MRSA and influenza become public.

    "This strengthens even more the rationale for vaccinating all children against influenza each year," he says. "If you prevent the initial influenza infection, you also prevent the dire complication of MRSA pneumonia. Thus, vaccinating all children against influenza is a public health program with a double benefit -- what could be better than that?"

    Dr. Diane Kang contributed to this report.


    • #3
      Re: Docs Worry About Deadly (Seasonal) Flu-Bacteria Combo


      MRSA Caused Pneumonia Deaths During 2006-2007 Flu Season in Young, Healthy People

      Washington, D.C. ? A high number of cases of pneumonia caused by staph infections resulted in death among young, otherwise healthy patients during the 2006-2007 flu season, with more than three-quarters caused by methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA). The case series is reported today online in the Annals of Emergency Medicine (?Staphylococcus aureus Community-Acquired Pneumonia During the 2006-07 Influenza Season?).

      ?Staph-caused pneumonia in the non-hospitalized population is rare to begin with, especially in otherwise healthy, young people, but the amount caused by MRSA was particularly striking,? said lead study author Alexander J. Kallen, MD, of the Centers for Disease Control. ?More than three-quarters (79 percent) of the staph-caused pneumonia patients were infected with MRSA. Many of the MRSA patients were not treated up front for MRSA, which suggests that doctors did not initially suspect this organism in these patients.?

      In early 2007, federal and state public health officials began to receive reports from health departments of severe staph-caused pneumonia. Many appeared to involve MRSA and were fatal. That is what prompted this study. Of the 47 staph-caused pneumonia patients for whom researchers had a complete record, 24 died. Thirteen of the 24 were 18 years old or younger and 44 percent had no known pertinent medical history. Patients who had had the flu were about twice as likely to die from the staph-caused pneumonia as those who had not. The average time between symptom onset and death was four days.

      ?The important public health message is twofold: Anyone who wants to decrease their chances of getting the flu and its complications like staph pneumonia should get a flu vaccine, and physicians should be alert to the possibility of MRSA causing severe pneumonia in outpatients and treat it accordingly,? said Kallen. ?We are currently studying the flu season of 2007-08 to better understand MRSA and its contribution to this type of pneumonia in the general, non-institutional population.?

      Source: American College of Emergency Physicians