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Drug-Resistant Staph Infections Reaching Epidemic Levels in Some Parts of U.S.
Date:10/19/2007

CDC official notes southern part of country most affected

FRIDAY, Oct. 19 (HealthDay News) -- Infections with the drug-resistant staph germ called MRSA are approaching epidemic levels in some parts of the United States, a federal epidemiologist says.

Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus infections, which are potentially deadly, are now responsible for an estimated 12 million outpatient visits each year for skin infections, said Jeff Hageman, of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Hageman blamed the increase on rising numbers of infections -- a trend that has probably been under way for several years -- and greater awareness of the problem.

"MRSA is epidemic in some regions of the country," he said. "The highest rates are in the southern parts of the U.S., including Atlanta, Los Angeles and Texas. We first began noticing MRSA in 1999 when there were four child deaths in Minnesota and North Dakota."

"Most of these infections are minor and go away without any medical treatment," Hageman said. "It's not clear why some progress to life-threatening disease."

While most MSRA infections occur in hospitals, the number and severity of infections in the community appears to be increasing. "Some 30 percent of people have staph bacteria on their skin," Hageman said. "The extent to which it is growing in the community is just being defined."

Hageman's assessment of the problem follows publication this week of a study in the Journal of the American Medical Association that found that MRSA staph infections are more common, both in and out of hospitals, than experts had once thought. More people died in 2005 from MRSA infections in the United States than from AIDS, the journal noted.

And it follows news reports that students in school districts in at least six states have been infected with MRSA, and three of the children have died. Ashton Bonds, 17, of Bedford
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