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A/H1N1v and MRSA

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  • A/H1N1v and MRSA

    By Lizw - A/H1N1v flu (also known as swine flu) has run a relatively mild course in most people. But for those co-infected with MRSA (methicillin-resistant staphylococcus aureous), it can be rapidly fatal. A 15 year old Buffalo, New York, boy with MRSA, who then contracted A/H1N1v, was western New York's first fatality. Another child diagnosed with both infections remains in critical condition at Women's and Children's Hospital in Buffalo.

    MRSA has long been a problem in nursing homes and hospitals, but in recent years it has also begun to appear in other places where people gather. As far back as 2002-2003, clusters of MRSA were found in sports facility changing rooms in widely separated states. Of even greater concern, especially for children, is the growing incidence of MRSA infection in pets. A March 2008 article in the New England Journal of Medicine examined a case in which a woman with a deep non-healing abcess and her cat were infected with a genetically identical strain of MRSA. The woman's abcess healed only after the cat was treated with antibiotics. Recently, the British medical journal The Lancet reported that MRSA infections can be passed back and forth between people and their pets.

    S. Aureous is not dangerous in itself. The CDC estimates that approximately 25 - 30% of all Americans harbor the bacteria in their nasal passages. Another 1% may carry the antibiotic resistant strain, MRSA. When a person infected with MRSA also contracts A/H1N1v, their likelihood of developing pneumonia is much higher than in the general population, because influenza interferes with the body's ability to fight off a staph infection in the lungs.

    Doctors urge parents whose children have flu symptoms to alert them if the child or another family member is also infected with MRSA.

    Further reading: (Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report, August 22, 2003) (CDC information page on Community-Associated MRSA) (The Lancet, Volume 9, July 2009) (New England Journal of Medicine, March 2008) (FluTrackers posting and discussion)

    Suggested headlines:
    Swine flu and MRSA, a double-whammy
    MRSA in pets may increase risk for swine flu sufferers

    Editor: S. Sanders