Super Bugs Popping Up All Over
(AP) Flesh-eating bacteria cases, fatal pneumonia and life-threatening heart infections suddenly are popping up around the country, striking healthy people and stunning their doctors.
The cause? Staph, a bacteria better known for causing skin boils easily treated with standard antibiotic pills.
No more, say infectious disease experts, who increasingly are seeing these "super bugs" - strains of Staphylococcus aureus unfazed by the entire penicillin family and other first-line drugs.
Until a few years ago, these drug-resistant infections were unheard of except in hospital patients, prison inmates and the chronically ill. Now, resistant strains are infecting healthy children, athletes and others with no connection to a hospital.
"This is a new bug," said Dr. John Bartlett, who chairs the committee on antibiotic resistance at the Infectious Diseases Society of America. "It's a different strain than in the hospital ... more dangerous than other staph."
"Primary care physicians and ER doctors, they don't all know (about this) and should," he said.
Bartlett, a professor at Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, treated three young Baltimore area women this year who got pneumonia from this community-acquired resistant staph. All had to be put on breathing machines, and one died, he said.
The infections will be a hot topic at the society's annual meeting this week in Boston. The group has been warning that drug companies aren't developing enough new antibiotics to avert a crisis.
Antibiotic-resistant staph infections, usually involving the skin, are showing up more often among healthy people. Here are some prevention tips:
¥ Wash hands thoroughly and often with soap and water.
¥ Keep cuts and abrasions clean and covered with a bandage until healed.
¥ Avoid contact with other people's wounds or material contaminated by wounds.
¥ Do not share items such as razors, soap, ointments and balms, towels or wash cloths, clothing or uniforms.
¥ If participating in contact sports, cover cuts, scrapes and other wounds with a bandage. Shower with soap immediately after each practice or game. Wipe down all non-washable equipment (mats, head protectors, gymnastics equipment, etc.) with alcohol or antibiotic solution after each person uses it.
¥ If caring for someone with an infection at home, wash hands with soap after each physical contact and before going outside. Only use towels for drying hands once. Change and launder linens frequently, right away if they are soiled.
¥ When contact with body fluids is expected, wear disposable gloves and wash hands after removing them.
¥ See a physician promptly if you have a suspicious skin sore or boil.