The 'Superbug' Scare
updated 11/05/2007 AT 01:00 AM EST
•originally published 11/05/2007 AT 01:00 AM EST
A new Centers for Disease Control study confirms that MRSA—which starts as a red bump resembling a bug bite and within days turns into an angry sore—is something to take seriously. It now accounts for 94,000 serious infections a year (mostly among the elderly and already hospitalized), with nearly 19,000 deaths annually, and could overtake AIDS as a killer in the U.S. Even experts are surprised by the rise in infections, linked in part to overuse of antibiotics. Heavy media coverage of MRSA in schools highlights a steady increase of cases in a setting where parents least expect it. In fact, schools, where children (some with poor hygiene) share desks, books and gym lockers, are a logical breeding ground, says Dr. John Bradley of Children's Hospital and Health Center in San Diego. "If you're sharing towels and jerseys, you can be sure the staph will spread," he says.
Jackie Vann, an eighth grader at Tampa Preparatory School, is a case in point: She spent four days in the hospital, with three surgeries, before doctors could tame MRSA that invaded through a cut on her leg. "My daughter was a beautiful, healthy, active 14-year-old, and then, wham! she was down," says her mom, Janelle, who realizes she is among the lucky ones. "It could have been a lot worse."