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Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Illinois Urges Constant Vigilance Against Growing Threat of Killer 'Superbug'

CHICAGO, July 10 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- A sometimes fatal "superbug" is popping up in hospitals, other health care settings and even communities where healthy people live. It's called methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus, (MRSA "mer'-sa"). Health experts urge common-sense steps by medical workers and the public to slow its spread.

"Physicians, health care facilities and patients play a role in reducing this threat through the appropriate use of antibiotics, proper wound care and adhering to basic infection-control measures, including regular hand-washing and not sharing towels, razors and other personal hygiene items," says Kim Reed, M.D., medical director for Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Illinois.

Other steps people inside and outside health care settings must take:

--Clean and cover cuts and scrapes.

--Shower after athletic events and workouts wearing flip-flops.

--Clean work surfaces.

--Maintain good hygiene.

--Use extra care in gyms, dorms and barracks where many people gather.

--Insist health workers follow anti-MRSA procedures.

"MRSA infections lead to increased human suffering and more expensive treatment alternatives," adds Reed.

'Didn't know what future held'

Al Wegleitner of Prosper, Texas, was bitten badly by this "superbug." Wegleitner came home from work and noticed a leg sore -- maybe a bug bite or pimple. Feverish, he went to bed. By morning, the sore spot was a large, bright red rash. "I still had a fever. My leg was twice its normal size." Rushed to Baylor Regional Medical Center at Plano, doctors pumped him with antibiotics with little effect.

"They kept asking me where I might have picked up an infection. I honestly didn't know. Frankly, I didn't know what the future held," says Wegleitner.

After 10 days hospitalized and no diagnosis, Wegleitner was sent home when the illness seemed to subside with orders to elevate his leg. He never felt "100 percent," but returned to work two weeks later. Then it happened again. He ran a high fever, accompanied by a swollen abdomen. Doctors finally concluded he suffered from a MRSA strain.

MRSA Counterassault

Now defined as any antibiotic-resistant strain of the microorganism that causes "staph" infections, MRSA originally referred just to staph bacteria resistant to methicillin, penicillin and related antibiotics. Once considered under control, MRSA has rebounded to the point it's a huge health care headache all over the world.

"While antibiotics have been a source of lifesaving treatment for literally millions of people over the past century," notes Reed, "bacterial resistance to common antibiotics is an increasing source of concern."

Since strains aren't killed off entirely, they keep mutating. Tens of thousands of people in the United States die annually from hospital-acquired, antibiotic-resistant bacterial infections, says the federal Centers for Disease Control (CDC). The family of Victoria Nahum of Atlanta, Ga., suffered a MRSA death. So she launched the Safe Care Campaign (

The CDC promotes its "National MRSA Education Initiative" at (Search for "MRSA Prevention"), and the FDA warns "the world could be faced with previously treatable diseases that again become untreatable" if MRSA isn't contained.

With more than seven million members, Blue Cross ( is the largest health insurance company in Illinois. Started in 1936, Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Illinois is committed to promoting the health and wellness of its members and communities through accessible, cost-effective, quality health care. Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Illinois is a division of Health Care Service Corporation (HCSC), a Mutual Legal Reserve Company. HCSC is an independent licensee of the Blue Cross and Blue Shield Association.

SOURCE Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Illinois
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