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US Hospitals Increasingly Colonized by Drug-resistant Germs

, a consulting epidemiologist and former CDC officials who led the study.

Only a couple of weeks ago researchers had said the superbugs, first seen mainly in hospitals and nursing homes, was spreading to urban poor settlements. The strain had turned up recently among athletes, prisoners and people who get illegal tattoos, it was said. It had risen almost seven-fold in some Chicago neighborhoods.

The type of staph infection that involves skin is called cellulitis and affects the skin's deeper layers. It is treatable with antibiotics.

This type of infection is very common in the general population -- and more common and more severe in people with weak immune systems. People who have diabetes or weakened immunity are particularly prone to developing cellulitis.

Staph cellulitis usually begins as a small area of tenderness, swelling, and redness. Sometimes it begins with an open sore. Other times, there is no break in the skin at all -- and it's anyone's guess where the bacteria came from.

The signs of cellulitis are those of any inflammation -- redness, warmth, swelling, and pain. Any skin sore or ulcer that has these signs may be developing cellulitis. If the staph infection spreads, the person may develop a fever, sometimes with chills and sweats, as well as swelling in the area.

Antibiotics are used to treat these infections. But there's been a gradual change in how well these antibiotics are working. While most staph infections used to be treatable with penicillin, in the 1980s that changed and stronger antibiotics are now used.

In about 50% of cases, however, resistance is seen even to these stronger antibiotics. These cases are not just happening in hospitals -- as once was true -- but now are occurring in the general community. That's been a problem. Many doctors are accustomed to using certain antibiotics, but those then fail because of antibiotic resistance. There are several more po
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