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Antibiotic-Resistant Infection Spreading

'Superbug' Outbreaks Occurring in Children, Otherwise Healthy People

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On the other end of the country, another researcher says the number of kids brought to Children's Hospital of Philadelphia for treatment of antibiotic-resistant staph infections doubled between 2001 and 2003. About half of the 79 children had no known risk factors that would have increased their risk for MRSA infection.

What is alarming is that many of these infections developed in cuts, scrapes, insect bites, and other minor injuries that occur everyday in active young children, says Susan Coffin, MD, the facility's medical director of infection prevention and control. "It's unclear why, but these resistant bacteria now occur in children who are otherwise healthy," she tells WebMD.

Church says that it's believed that the rash of outbreaks detailed in both hospitals likely results from the overuse of antibiotics. "But it's clearly not the same genetic strains as we've seen in hospitalized patients."

Both experts say their studies should serve as a warning to prevent potential problems. Their advice:

  • Thoroughly wash any open wound with soap and water, no matter how minor it appears, and continue to keep it clean.
  • Wash hands frequently -- especially before touching any wound.
  • Avoid sharing towels, combs, soap, and other items that touch skin.
  • Get prompt medical attention for any skin wound that leads to a fever or develops a blister, boil, redness, or swelling -- symptoms of possible staph infection.

"These infections can easily be controlled if they are diagnosed early and treated with antibiotics to which they are not resistant," says Coffin. "Any serious-looking skin infection should be promptly seen by a doctor."

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