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MRSA Death Scares Parents

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A Tennessee elementary school student has died of MRSA ... here's how to lower the risk for your kids.

Anti-septic hand lotion dispensers
11-year-old elementary school student Kristin Hunter of Tennessee died from MRSA (methicillin-resistant staphylococcus aureus). Health workers scrubbed down his school to make sure the deadly MRSA infection doesn't spread.

With all the terrifying news about MRSA these days, we wanted to know 1) how freaked out should we be and 2) how can we keep our kids safe? We asked Dr. Sheldon L. Kaplan, chief of Infectious Disease Service at Texas Children's Hospital. His first point? Something you're already telling them.

1. Discourage kids from picking their noses. Staphylococcus aureus (the bacteria that causes MRSA) lives in many people's noses, so if you notice your kids doing it, make sure they wash their hands immediately afterward.

2. Keep kids' nails short and clean. This will help prevent bacteria from growing under their nails and cut down on germs spread by scratching and aforementioned nose-picking.

3. Keep an eye on insect bites or sores. If a sore is especially red or is starting to ooze, you should take your child to a doctor. If caught early, most cases of staph can be treated with antibiotics or topical ointments.

4. Never allow your kids to share washcloths or towels. Not even with siblings or family members. Children should have their own designated washcloth and towel -- no sharing.

5. Encourage frequent hand-washing. Hand-washing is your best defense against MRSA.

6. Always cover open sores or wounds with a bandage. Any open wound is a potential entry point for MRSA.

7. Discourage teens from sharing razors with others. Sharing a razor with an infected person could allow MRSA to enter the bloodstream.

8. Don't push doctors to prescribe antibiotics for viral infections. Overuse of antibiotics contributes to antibiotic resistance.

As to how freaked out we should be, Dr. Kaplan says parents have every right to be worried, but there's no cause for panic. Most cases of MRSA can be treated with antibiotics, with exceptions ... and it's those exceptions that are all over the news right now.

next: The Price of Procrastination
19 comments so far | Post a comment now
Chris March 23, 2009, 1:22 PM

My 5 year old is a MRSA carrier. We learned this after a 4 day hospital stay a few months ago. We were sent in by her ENT doctor {the infection was in her nose} after she wasnt responding to oral antibiotics. They did IV antibiotis and it cleared up in a matter of hours. She has had 2 STAPH infections prior to the MRSA diagnosis. Every little cut she ever gets is cleaned and coverd emidietly. Even paper cuts. We do the nail things and she has her own towels throughout the whole house. Alot of kids have it. They just dont know b/c doctors dont always cutlure these, or they DO know, YOU just dont know. I notified my daughters school so they are aware and if she gets a pimple anywhere that looks like its a STAPH infections she stays home.
My advice, go look at pictures of STAPH infections on the internet. In all stages, from begining to end. MRSA doesnt have a specific “look” All it is is a STAPH infection resistant to antibiotics. If you know what to look for, you can catch it early and take care of it.MRSA is a scary thing, even KNOWING she has it and about it, were always on watch for one.

to chris March 23, 2009, 1:57 PM

thanks for your post. I found it very informative and helpful! I am going to go look up staph now…though I have had a staph infection many years ago so I think I know what it looks like. It won’t hurt to refresh my memory! Hope your daughter stays well. Will she ever not be a carrier?

Whitney March 23, 2009, 2:10 PM

My husband is an OB and we were talking about NJ thinking of prohibiting “Brazillians”- he said he sees tons of MRSA infections from waxing as well, but usually MRSA can be effectively treated with other antibiotics- you just need to catch it early.

Bek March 23, 2009, 2:14 PM

So scary! I had a staph infection that almost killed me 13 years ago- it had eaten away at bone in my spine and put me on life support, in a coma. I will probably feel the effects/fallout from the damage it caused for the rest of my life…

I also wanted to point out that many health agencies, worldwide, also suggest avoiding sharing/swapping pierced earrings(and nose-rings, belly rings, anything that goes in a piercing) as well- for MRSA and for hepatitis.

Thanks for spreading the word about MRSA and smart habits that can lower risk!

Chris March 23, 2009, 3:05 PM

From what I understand (and believe me I gave her doctor, ENT doc and hospital staff the 3rd degree on this) she will always be a carrier. I get really scared when I stop and just think about it, what it could do. But the reality of it is, she has it and I cant do anything about it except know the signs and pay attention. Shes a normal healthy happy 5year old, doing the kindergarten thing and thriving. It really all comes down to spotting it early. I dont know about these death’s but im guessing no one caught it in time. I give BOTH my girls, eventhough my youngest daughter doesnt have it, a look down every bath time. The bottom line is, its all about Education :) Never hurts to learn something new every day :)

Donna March 23, 2009, 6:11 PM

The news never tells you if the MRSA death is due to the “skin” infection type or the newer outbreaks of MRSA Pneumonia that is usually thought of at first as a case of the flu. Death less than a month ago in KS teen was due to MRSA pneumonia I believe although they didn’t really say, but said prior to him getting sick he went to the doc and was thought to have the flu but within 5 days had passed away. Said he died of MRSA. Most people think MRSA is just a staph infection on the skin but there are many reports of it appearing in the body and people dying from it and never have a scratch but it’s found inside the body (under a knee, foot, lung etc..). With MRSA pneumonia one can catch it in the air just like the flu! —oh update…just found this Fox News is saying this child in TN, DID die of MRSA pneumonia…so it’s not due to skin infection,2933,510138,00.html

Charles March 23, 2009, 7:16 PM

They’ve done studies and proven that copper fixtures (bath fixtures, door plates and handles, etc) reduce the microbes in a hospital by 90%, reducing the risk of infecting by that same amount, however, the cost is preventing hospitals from enacting the change.

Basically the hospital administrations are saying it costs too much to save you and your family’s life.

Prevention is key March 23, 2009, 7:24 PM

People Investigating Toxic Sites March 23, 2009, 8:29 PM

Another way to protect your child is to find out if the school they attend was built on top of a closed dump (landfill). Our organization has files of illnesses, including cancers, at many schools across the country that were built on dumpsites. Most closed dumps contain carcinogenic chemicals and generate highly explosive, highly flammable methane gas. Please contact us if you are concerned about a particular school and also refer to our website for our list of schools on dumps.

Anon March 24, 2009, 8:23 PM

I’m naturally immune thank god.

deaddrift March 24, 2009, 8:25 PM

FYI - landfills and MRSA are completely unrelated. One worry at a time here, folks.

Dr M Sullivan March 25, 2009, 3:13 PM

There is a new weapon in the fight against MRSA that is now FDA-cleared and commercially available in the United States. The Microcyn® Technology ( is a safe-as-saline anti-infective that quickly eradicates a broad range of pathogens, including antibiotic-resistant bacteria (including MRSA and VRE), viruses, fungi and spores. Dual-action in nature, in addition to killing the infection, the Microcyn also accelerates the wound-healing process by reducing inflammation in the wound and increasing nutrient-rich blood and oxygen flow to the wound bed. Twenty-five clinical studies have demonstrated Microcyn to be both safe and effective in killing pathogens. There’s an excellent doctor discussion of this new technology at YouTube:

espruill March 26, 2009, 1:54 PM

Dear Anon,

Newsflash!! No one is “immune”

Cynthia Yankee March 28, 2009, 3:11 PM

We are friends with the Hunter family. Kristen was an 11 year old girl, who first came down with the flu, and then MRSA/pneumonia. She was treated at the very best hospital, Vanderbilt Children’s Hospital in Nashville. The Doctors there said the MRSA came from her own system. In January of 2008 the CDC put out a warning that they had seen a five fold increase in MRSA pneumonia. Apparently the flu damages protective membranes (coverings) around the lungs that make them vunerable to this microorganism, which can actually colonize in areas near the lungs and not cause harm as long as the child is healthy. I would say that it is a good idea to find out if your child is a carrier, and have them treated. Also be sure and get your child vaccinated for the flu and hope that it covers all strains of flu for that particular year. Studies have shown that only about 5% of children get their flu shots. Please remember this family in your prayers.

Jamie April 2, 2009, 1:33 PM

My daughter has had 4 mrsa infections in the last 6 months and is a carrier. No matter what amount of cleaning and all the bleach baths and washing hands, it seems to keep coming back. After having an abcess removed from her butt, it kind of hit me that this is something serious. I’ve taken her to the ER and they think it’s chicken pox, which is the worst case thing that can happen,even with the history of MRSA. But persistance pays off once you know what you are dealing with.

kristi April 25, 2009, 1:39 PM

Where does this come from though? Do they get it from others who have it? or can they just get it from touching a surface that has it on it? I think i need to brush up on stuff like this because soon enough my lil man will be getting into everything!

Elena May 1, 2009, 10:49 PM

My son died last week of mrsa. He was 9 days old and extremely premature. The nurse told me the night before he died that Adrian ( my son) was a carrier of mrsa and also had a low count of white blood cells and being that he was born at 23 week gestational age his ammune system was week. But since he was a carrier does that mean that either my husband or myself are a carrier of mrsa as well?

Cajzribt June 29, 2009, 4:06 AM

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